CyberAlert -- 08/18/1998 -- CBS: "Extraordinary" Speech; Hillary as Victim Not Perpetrator
CBS: "Extraordinary" Speech; Hillary as Victim Not Perpetrator
2) Prime time reaction: Bob Schieffer awestruck by Clinton's "extraordinary" speech, Sam Donaldson and Scott Pelley less impressed. NBC focused on public support for Clinton and Brokaw kept raising his wish that the scandal can now be put aside.
3) Evening shows: "Will Ken Starr let it end here?" hoped Tom Brokaw. NBC passed along Clinton's favorite psalm. Instead of depicting Hillary as active in Bill's obfuscation, CBS & NBC claimed she's a "humiliated" spouse surprised about Lewinsky.
Notes: First, I realize this is an extra-long CyberAlert, but it covers a big day. Second, this CyberAlert was sent to the listserve at 6am ET, so all recipients should have received it by 8am. The distribution of yesterday's edition was delayed for unknown reasons for about eight hours and was received by recipients up to 13 hours after it was posted. For future reference, MRC Web operatives Sean Henry and Kenny Lemay reliably get the CyberAlert up on the MRC home page by 10am ET in the morning.
Correction: There were two items numbered #5 in the August 17 CyberAlert. The second #5 was really #6.
First up today, a quick one-two punch from Clinton's undaunted
defenders: Geraldo Rivera and Eleanor Clift. First, a taste of Geraldo
caught by MRC analyst Mark Drake. At the top of his 9pm ET Rivera Live
show on CNBC Monday night just an hour before the President spoke, Rivera
announced over video of Ken Starr:
Clinton's little talk, at about 10:30pm ET on FNC Eleanor Clift told
After President Clinton's four-minute address from the White House which began at 10:02 ET Monday night, ABC's Sam Donaldson noted it "was not the speech his aides hoped he would make" and Peter Jennings wondered about his allies left out on a limb. But on CBS Bob Schieffer was awestruck, repeatedly employing the word "extraordinary." His colleague Scott Pelley, however, emphasized how Clinton never "owned up" to his fist-waving lie in January nor how much money his seven months of obstruction cost taxpayers. NBC's Tom Brokaw kept pushing guests about whether the nation can now move beyond the scandal or whether it's time for the nation to forgive so it can heal. In reports from both coasts NBC showcased citizens thrilled with Clinton's comments who hope Starr will now drop his case. One exception: Maria Shriver stumbled upon a Californian upset that Clinton is "too Republican."
Before the speech CBS reporter Eric Engberg treated Hillary Clinton as a victim of a "family tragedy" instead of as an active participant in a seven month campaign of lies and obfuscation. An angry Orrin Hatch made appearances on all the broadcast and cable networks. Barney Frank was almost as popular, but he seemed to move around his home in Provincetown as the background changed for each network.
The quotes below and in item #3 that follows are made possible by the MRC's night beat team of Clay Waters watching ABC, Geoffrey Dickens monitoring NBC, Eric Darbe analyzing CNN, Jessica Anderson checking out CBS, Mark Drake looking at CNBC and Paul Smith observing FNC. Geoffrey and Jessica deserve double mention for stayed past midnight.
-- ABC News cut into a pre-season NFL football game at 10pm ET and rejoined football at 10:26pm, thus offering less than half the coverage time as CBS and NBC.
Following Clinton, Sam Donaldson observed: "This was not the speech his aides hoped he would make and believed he was going to make. This was a sort of defiant speech. When he said seven months is long enough, it was echoes of one year of Watergate is long enough....He did not tell the country what that relationship was. That question publicly is still unanswered. We're told that he did before the grand jury, admit that it was a relationship including sexual contact. But he didn't come clean with the country tonight."
Cokie Roberts suggested Clinton just matched what pollsters said the public wanted to hear: "The President touched all the subjects which the polls are telling us the American people agree with him on. They think the investigation is politically motivated, they think it's gone on too long, they think it's time to get back to the work of the country, and the security interests of the country. And they think that his private life should be private."
Peter Jennings wondered about all those who seemed to believe Clinton all these months: "George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Clinton said this evening the Independent Counsel has hurt so many people. What about all those people who've been standing up for the President for lo these seven-and-a-half months, on tape, repeatedly seen on television, defending him because they believe in him. What happens to them now?"
Clinton's speech, Eric Engberg lamented the plight of the First Lady:
"Dan, unlike any other scandal in memory, the country has been
acutely aware that what it is witnessing is not just a political
thunderclap, but a family tragedy. For seven months, she has been the
first defender as well as First Lady. Had she not done her job so well,
it's not likely the President would have stood up so well in the opinion
polls. While other Clinton supporters froze in shock after the initial
Lewinsky story seven months ago, Mrs. Clinton went on television to
attribute the charges to political foes."
In other words,
she lied. But instead of pursuing her complicity in her husband's fraud,
Engberg highlighted sympathetic comments from Jesse Jackson about how they
blame Ken Starr:
CBS reporter Scott Pelley managed a more thoughtful assessment: "First of all, it didn't seem that the President really owned up to the statement last January when he wagged his finger into the television camera and said, 'I want you to listen to me: I did not have an improper relationship with that woman.' Also, consider this: The President talked about this going on for seven months. Well, the President has been using the White House, the White House staff, White House lawyers, for seven months to defend this lie, essentially. We may never know how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent here at the White House to defend what the President now admits was a lie. All along we were told that this was a vast right wing conspiracy and that it was an attack on the White House and the presidency, an unjustified one. Well, now apparently that wasn't the case and the President is acknowledging that he knew that all along...."
Can the scandal
now end? Tom Brokaw hoped so. To Senator Orrin Hatch:
Congressman Bill McCullom:
To Randy Tate of
the Christian Coalition:
Brokaw did inquire
of Lanny Davis: "Let me ask you as someone who believed the President
for a time whether you felt any sense of betrayal tonight as you listened
to his remarks?" But, instead of condemning Clinton Brokaw painted
him as typical, asking:
From East to West
NBC discovered public joy with Clinton's speech and hope it will all go
away. Bob Kur drove to Towson, Maryland to watch Clinton with a cross
section of voters which supposedly included Dole backers. Kur told Brokaw:
"I must say going in Tom that this group, most of them believed that
the President, what he was going to say tonight, should be the last word
in all of this."
Shriver checked in from "the Broadway Deli. Very busy restaurant in
Santa Monica, California. When the President spoke here not too long ago
you could hear a pin drop in this restaurant. I'm here with Debra
Castiglione and Bruce Williams, he's a teacher, she's a sales exec.
You said that you were really interested in what the President had to say.
Did he come clean enough for you?"
Still hoping the end is near, Brokaw plaintively asked Tim Russert: "The last guest that we had from California said, 'Who would go into politics now?' Is this possibly a kind of bottoming out of this kind of compulsive fascination that this entire country has had with this subject and the polarization that it has brought about. And is there a possibility that out of all of this the country will now find a way of healing itself somewhere in the middle ground?"
Over half the August 17 broadcast network evening news shows dealt with Clinton's testimony and speculation about his upcoming address. All three passed along sympathetic comments about the First family from Jesse Jackson and the CBS and NBC line-ups featured stories displaying empathy for Hillary Clinton, portraying her as a victim instead of denouncing her complicity in the seven months of obfuscation.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings interviewed Jesse Jackson, asking: "Mr. Jackson, how are they taking it?" and "You told me earlier today that you thought that Chelsea was a very poised individual. I know you talk to her on a reasonably regular basis. How is she taking this? She's been quite isolated by both her parents and the press to some extent." After Jackson claimed "there's a kind of common resentment that Starr's intrusion has attacked their family in ways that has bound their family as opposed to tearing it apart," Jennings did point out: "There are many people in the country who of course will say that it was Mr. Clinton who brought that on, not the Independent Counsel."
Later Jennings talked with George Stephanopoulos, posing two questions. First, "How disappointed were you, as a friend of the President's today?" Second, Jennings asked: "Can you answer in ten seconds why he waited seven-and-a-half-months before telling the truth?" That allowed Stephanopoulos to deliver this benign spin: "I don't think he wanted to confront the truth about that relationship. It was a very tough human problem and he just didn't want to face it."
painted a picture of Hillary the humiliated: "Dan, if there is anyone
for whom this day is as difficult as it is for the President, it is his
wife. Bill Clinton stands to be embarrassed by what he says today, but
Hillary Rodham Clinton stands to be humiliated....Six days after the
scandal first broke, the First Lady was asked on the Today show if people
should expect the President to resign if he had committed adultery and
lied about it. She stood by him."
Houston to CBS: Does anyone really believe she's so stupid that she just discovered the charges about Lewinsky are true?
Plante concluded: "Their friends say that despite everything that's happened in the past, the Clintons are mortified that their private lives have become a very public moral and legal issue. But they blame Kenneth Starr for that, not Bill Clinton, so that may make things between them a little easier as they head off for two weeks of vacation."
Matching that theme, Rather next asked former Clinton speech writer, U.S. News editor and now CBS News consultant, Don Baer: "Now, there've been these reports, so far as you can tell, true or untrue, that Mrs. Clinton, up to this time, has been urging taking on Ken Starr frontally. True or untrue?"
Doesn't sound like someone so much "humiliated" by her husband as someone excited by an opportunity to use an event to hurl unsubstantiated charges at her political enemies.
David Bloom relayed how "The President, Jackson said, takes comfort from Psalm 51. 'Have mercy on me oh God, and cleanse me from my sin.'"
Later, like Bill
Plante, Andrea Mitchell portrayed a weekend of humiliation and surprise
So, she knew she was lying on the Today show. But, to believe Mitchell's tale, you'd have to assume Hillary is an incredibly dumb woman. Mitchell contended: "The turning point, Monica Lewinsky's dress. Past accusers were easier to dismiss. This time, say First Lady's friends, there was potential evidence impossible to ignore leading finally to her husband's admissions this weekend. Ironically Hillary Clinton's role in this scandal has boosted her popularity. But tonight with her husband's admissions the First Lady will find it much harder to blame political enemies for creating these problems."
What a difference a few days make. Just last Thursday Lanny Davis insisted Bill Clinton has a record of being "candid" about his fidelity.
On the August 13
Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee, as transcribed by MRC analyst
Clay Waters, pressed: "The President told us that he was speaking
truthfully when he denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers. And then
last fall he admitted that he did have a sexual relationship with her, and
with all due respect, Mr. Davis, to you and the presidency, what will
'truthfully' mean on Monday?"
Sunday night Newsweek's Eleanor Clift claimed she knew all along that Clinton had done something "inappropriate," but she never bothered to tell anyone earlier. A New York City source not affiliated with FNC alerted the MRC's Tim Graham to her comments on a special pre-testimony edition on August 16 of FNC's O'Reilly Factor.
her: "Now, if the President does say tomorrow that he had an
inappropriate relationship with Miss Lewinsky, as sources say he will,
that is going to go against what you said on this broadcast a number of
times that you did believe the President when he said he didn't have any
sex with Miss Lewinsky. Does that make you personally feel bad?"
Compare her sudden realization to what she asserted just three weeks ago. Here's an exchange from the July 25 McLaughlin Group:
Clift: "If he
told the truth the first time he should stick with it. If he's got
adjustments to make, now's the time."
A presumption of guilt now fulfilled. -- Brent Baker
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