CyberAlert -- 11/25/1998 -- Sawyer on 20/20 to Hit Starr with Carville-Like Attacks

Sawyer on 20/20 to Hit Starr with Carville-Like Attacks

1) For Wednesday's 20/20 Diane Sawyer hits Ken Starr with the Clintonista spin: "Do I have a right to ask you about your sex life?" "Is this a witch hunt?" "When are you going to wrap this up?" "People wonder if you understand human frailty."

2) Sunday on CNN's Cold War: The Cuban missile crisis. The Soviets were "threatened" by the U.S. and reacted in "fear," which almost led the U.S. to annihilate the world.

3) CBS News showed Kevorkian's killing, but in 1992 they covered up video of aborted fetuses, denouncing it as tasteless.

Correction: The November 22 CyberAlert twice identified Debra Dickerson as a USA Today reporter and once referred to her as U.S. News & World Report Senior Editor. I was wrong more often than correct. She's with U.S. News.

Note to readers: Given this is a holiday week, I hadn't intended to send any CyberAlerts after Monday's, especially not one on the day before Thanksgiving. But the news media never let the bias rest, so neither can I nor you ever-vigilant CyberAlert readers. So today an edition on two holiday week news broadcasts that, based on their promos, will deliver a very slanted product. And a third item about an interesting liberal bias angle to last Sunday's 60 Minutes story with Kevorkian administering a lethal dose of drugs to a Lou Gehrig's disease sufferer.

(NYPD Blue watchers who taped but have not seen Tuesday's episode: skip this paragraph. An example of art imitating life: the plot of Tuesday's NYPD Blue on ABC delved into euthanasia. Writing "Detective Bobby Simone," played by Jimmy Smits, out of the series the writers began the season by giving him a heart condition that requires him to get a transplant. In Tuesday's 90- minute episode, with his heart failing, drugs not getting an infection under control and an abscess discovered in his brain, the doctor agrees to his request to let him pass away without any last-minute medical intervention.)


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)ABC News isn't hiding the antagonistic, anti-Starr investigation slant of Wednesday's 20/20 interview with the independent counsel. They're promoting it. Here's a promo I caught, during Tuesday's NYPD Blue, for the November 25 show:
Announcer: "On 20/20 Wednesday, a Diane Sawyer exclusive: Ken Starr. He's faced Congress. Now he answers the questions they didn't ask."
Diane Sawyer: "Do I have a right to ask you about your sex life?" Cut to another question: "Is this a witch hunt?" And a third: "When are you going to wrap this up?"
Announcer: "Don't miss 20/20 Wednesday."

Actually, I believe Starr was asked in his House appearance questions matching Sawyer's second and third queries.

And advertising it. Here's the text of a quarter page display ad run in many papers on Tuesday:

Or persecutor?
Wednesday night, you're the judge.

Tomorrow night, in an exclusive interview, Diane Sawyer asks Ken Starr the tough questions: Is this a witch hunt? Was all the salacious detail necessary? What do you really think of the Clintons? When will it all end? No matter which side you're on, the answers will surprise you.

END Ad Text Reprint

And talking about it. At least about how it's a "very combative" interview. Here's an item from Peter Johnson's "Inside TV" column in Tuesday's USA Today:

DIANE'S CHAT: "For me, it was the first time to get a sense of who he really is," ABC's Diane Sawyer said Monday, after spending three "very combative and very engaged" hours Saturday with independent counsel Ken Starr for Wednesday's 20/20. Although "people will be surprised that he laughs," she said, "you get a sense of the life of a man who planned the prom, but didn't go because his religious upbringing forbade dancing." Sawyer promises "big surprises about how revealing he is personally, about the colliding forces of a prosecutor who says he is doing his job and a political environment which says, 'Stop.' I think people will come away with a lot clearer sense of what the core debate is. We all sit around dinner tables and argue this endlessly. One of the things he's doing is saying, 'Just stop with me for a minute and examine how I saw my job.'"

END Excerpt

He laughs? Wow. Why would anyone but a Starr hater be "surprised" that he laughs"? Well, I guess those who accepted the mean-spirited, hateful media caricature of him would surprised.

It looks like the interview will match the ad, at least based upon the excerpts featured on the Web site. While Starr gets time to forward his perspective, a fresh view for network news watchers, the focus of the interview seems to be on making Starr respond to his critics. Sawyer presses Starr with questions from the Clinton camp's side which sees the whole thing as an invasion of a personal life, not an investigation of a public misdeeds and deceit. She emphasizes personalities, not the law, as if Starr's sexual habits or whether he understands "human frailties" should have any relation to whether President Clinton should answer for committing perjury and lying to the public and then covering up both for months.

Here are some highlights of the excerpts from the Web page, which ABC unusually posted in advance because, I suspect, they realized the Thursday holiday would have suppressed any publicity for their scoop unless they got the story out on Tuesday for Wednesday's papers. (November 25 is the last night of the November sweeps, which explains why ABC is airing such an exclusive on a pre-holiday night.)

-- Sawyer: "As you know, you have been cast in the role of a moral crusader in an ambiguous world; that you are self-righteous, sanctimonious; that you have moral certainties into areas where other people have doubt and humanity. What do you think about extramarital sex?"

-- Sawyer, probably referring to the collective wisdom in the ABC newsroom: "I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, 'Ask him. Ask him about his life.' Do I have a right to ask you about your sex life?"....
Sawyer's follow-up: "Because, again, people, people wonder if
you understand human frailty."

-- Sawyer: "So to the people who say you're a prude, you're a puritan, you're the sex police, you say what?"

-- Sawyer in the only question James Carville would have rejected: "If, if Bill Clinton is allowed to get away with this, will the American legal system be cracked, be shattered?"

-- Sawyer: "Linda Tripp, Linda Tripp leaving your office and going home and talking to Paula Jones' attorneys that night, I mean, at the very least, is this control of your witness?"
Starr: "I think we could have had better control of her."
Sawyer: "Should have?"
Starr: "Yeah. In fact, I think in retrospect, it would have been a better thing to have said [cut off by Sawyer]"
Sawyer: "You really had no idea that she was going?"

-- Sawyer: "By somebody's account, I think there were 62 mentions of the word breast, 23 of cigar, 19 of semen, and that there is a way of summarizing these things and talking about the dates and the times."
Starr: "Right."
Sawyer: "I mean, this has been called demented pornography, pornography for puritans. Were there mistakes made in including some of this?"....
Sawyer's follow-up: "But looking back. You wouldn't take out a word of this?"

To read the entire set of excerpts posted by ABC News, go to:


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Sunday's installment of CNN's Cold War series promises another episode from the perspective that "fear" drove the Cold War. In this case, threats and fear from the United States which then almost caused nuclear annihilation in response. Here's the promo text, from the Web page, for the episode titled "Cuba, 1959-62."

"Threatened by U.S. missiles near its borders, the Soviet Union plans to retaliate by placing short-and medium-range missiles in Cuba. Fearful of another U.S.-backed invasion, Cuban President Fidel Castro agrees. But when the United States discovers the missile sites, the world teeters on the brink of World War III."

This episode will air Sunday night, November 29 at 8pm and 12am (technically Monday morning) ET, that's 5pm and 9pm PT.

For more on the slant of the series, check two previous CyberAlerts. First, a summary of a story on FNC critical of the series:

Second, excerpts of a New Republic story which focused on
CNN's moral equivalence:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Providing research for MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell's syndicated column condemning 60 Minutes for showing Kevorkian's video, the MRC's Tim Graham recalled quite a contrast in how CBS News reacted in 1992 to a candidate who showed aborted fetuses in a campaign ad.

Here's an excerpt from the Bozell column:

So if CBS is in the game of presenting heinous video in the service of "socially useful" causes, has this network ever aired footage of one of the 37-million-plus legal abortions in the United States? Actually, when a congressional candidate presented a campaign ad in April of 1992 showing grotesque footage of murdered babies, CBS was there -- to condemn it on their evening news show.

Reporter Wyatt Andrews fulminated: "Michael Bailey, an anti-abortion candidate for Congress in Indiana today began airing what cold be the most tasteless ad ever shown on television. What's more, he's a candidate, protected against censorship, no one can stop him." But CBS did stop him: they covered up the pictures with a big gray screen. Andrews concluded: "TV stations in Indianapolis and Louisville are questioning whether Bailey is abusing the law, whether under FCC rules, any zealot with a candidate's filing fee can put anything on TV...Tastelessness in television may not be new, but this case is unique."

END Excerpt

To read the whole column, go to the MRC home page where MRC Webmaster Sean Henry has posted it. Or, you can jump directly to:

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving with your family and
friends. -- Brent Baker

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