CyberAlert -- 12/09/1998 -- White House Plays Nice

White House Plays Nice; Rivera Declares "Love" for Clinton

1) The networks stressed how the White House decided to avoid attacks. "The message today was 'I am sorry,'" insisted Tom Brokaw but CBS's Scott Pelley found the new written defense bashes Starr.

2) Monday night the networks somberly informed viewers that Clinton is really in danger of being impeached.

3) Geraldo Rivera blamed Clinton's "pro-choice politics" for motivating efforts to impeach him, declared about Clinton that "I love him," and exclaimed how he's "delighted" about Amo Houghton.

4) Will Ronald McDonald House families be able to visit their children in the hospital? Only if Geraldo Rivera makes good on a bet he lost about how no one is prosecuted for lying about sex.

5) Boston's Howie Carr suggested Lisa Myers and Jackie Judd should be thankful Candy Crowley makes them look like Kate Moss.

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cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The cable networks stuck with the Tuesday impeachment hearings all day and into the night before they ended at about 9pm ET. PBS, or at least Washington's WETA-TV, cut out early to go to the NewsHour and an evening begathon. The cable coverage wiped out the normal CNN and FNC evening newscasts, but CNN ran a special at 10pm ET.

The hearings led the three broadcast network evening shows as each emphasized how the White House decided to take a more conciliatory approach. "The message today was 'I am sorry,'" insisted NBC's Tom Brokaw. Seconds after CBS's Bob Schieffer assured viewers that the "President's team stuck to the high ground," his colleague, Scott Pelley, reported that in the just-released written defense of Clinton "the President's lawyers call Ken Starr's prosecution deceptively one-sided." So, business as usual but neither ABC or NBC took note. ABC's Sam Donaldson played clips of Clinton's September contrition trilogy before warning that his advisers "fear" that showing contrition again "would be seen as a cynical ploy." Imagine that.

Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, December 8 evening shows, including the show openings from the anchors to give you a flavor of the network spin on such an important day in the impeachment process.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings began:
"Good evening. On Capitol Hill today the lawyers for President Clinton settled in to make a last stand on his behalf. They have two days before the House Judiciary Committee to make the case why Mr. Clinton should not be impeached for perjury, obstruction of justice or abuse of power..."

Linda Douglass opened her piece of the President's witnesses by introducing a soundbite from Greg Craig: "Facing Republicans who seem bent on impeaching the President, the White House lawyer began by apologizing on Mr. Clinton's behalf."

Next, from the White House Sam Donaldson took up the recommendation that Clinton must show contrition if he is to survive. Donaldson observed:
"When it comes to contrition from President Clinton, he has already gone down that road. In Moscow."
Clinton, September 2: "I have acknowledged that I made a mistake."
Donaldson: "In Dublin."
Clinton, September 4: "And I'm sorry about it."
Donaldson: "At a White House prayer breakfast."
Clinton, September 11: "I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned."
Donaldson: "Now, some of his advisers fear, for the President to say it all again would be seen as a cynical ploy rather than a sincere act."

As if it wasn't before.

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather started by intoning:
"Good evening. President Clinton's camp tonight is already looking beyond a sure-fire, party-line vote for impeachment later this week in the House Judiciary Committee. The President's lawyers, allies and political operatives are trying to head off what comes after that: the growing likelihood, as of this day, of actual impeachment by the full House of Representatives...."

Bob Schieffer summarized the hearings and played several soundbites before concluding: "All this marks a striking departure for the President's team, which until now has built its defense around attacks on the independent counsel Ken Starr and the Republicans. But today the President's personal attorney David Kendall, who has clashed repeatedly with this committee, stayed in the shadows and the President's team stuck to the high ground. They haven't changed any minds on the committee yet, but the Republicans like this new approach, Dan, a lot better than the old one."

Rather then went to Scott Pelley who quickly countered the notion that the Clinton team has dropped its effort to discredit Ken Starr: "Dan, the White House has just released a new point by point defense of the President. It runs nearly 200 pages and in it the President's lawyers call Ken Starr's prosecution deceptively one-sided and they insist that Mr. Clinton's testimony has always been technically true."

After Pelley's piece Gloria Borger explained how the White House is lobbying Republican moderates.

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened:
"Good evening. Bill Clinton sent an all-star line-up to Capitol Hill today to try to save his presidency from impeachment, but tonight the jury still is out in a manner of speaking. And it will be for several more days. It now appears the Judiciary Committee won't vote before the weekend on whether to recommend impeachment..."

Gwen Ifill led into a clip of Craig by stressing the nice White House mode: "A new strategy for White House lawyers today. Gone, the defiant attack on Republicans and Ken Starr. In its place, a milder apologetic tone."

Following Ifill Brokaw asserted: "The President still does not plan to appear before the committee personally, but plainly his team has been listening to complaints the White House is arrogant. As NBC's David Bloom reports from the White House tonight, the message today was 'I am sorry.'"

Bloom began by noting that the new 184 page defense starts by saying Clinton is "profoundly sorry."

Finally, Lisa Myers checked in with one of the struggling Republican moderates: Brian Bilbray from San Diego.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Clinton could actually be impeached, the networks somberly relayed Monday night, December 7, the first time network viewers got a real sense from the anchors that things were going the wrong way for Clinton:

-- Dan Rather, CBS Evening News: "The President's advisers are now convinced that there are enough votes in the full House to get the President impeached..."

-- Jim Moret, CNN's The World Today: "It's the beginning of a landmark week in this country's history. Bill Clinton likely is days away from joining Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon, U.S. Presidents who had to face articles of impeachment...."

-- Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News: "Good evening. One week from tonight the full House of Representatives could very well have a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee that President Clinton should be impeached. That would trigger a series of rancorous debates and votes the President is desperate to avoid. He does not want to become only the second President in history to face an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. So tonight his White House team is scrambling."
Later, David Bloom uniquely relayed: "A top White House aide acknowledges the President gave, and this is a direct quote, 'snotty and lawyerly answers' to Chairman Hyde's 81 questions..."


geraldo1209.jpg (14979 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Geraldo Rivera blamed Clinton's "pro-choice politics" for motivating efforts to impeach him, admitted to Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett that "I love him maybe more than you do," and blurted out how he's "delighted to announce that Amo Houghton...has just said he's coming out against impeachment." All that in under 48 hours.

-- Republicans want to impeach in order to ban abortion. Rivera opened the December 7 Upfront Tonight on CNBC:
"Hello everybody and welcome to something many never expected to see: the impeachment of a President for committing adultery and then lying about it under oath. Why are House Republicans doing this to Clinton? Because they can. For the next few weeks until the next Congress is seated in January the lameducks still have the votes to defy the will of the electorate. So infuriated by everything from Clinton's evasive answers to his pro-choice politics, they are about to do something that has not been done for 130 years."

-- Declaring his "love" for Bill Clinton. Journalistic norms say you challenge your guests with the arguments and points made by political opponents of your guest. Not Rivera. Check out the slant of these questions, caught by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, on Monday's Rivera Live to Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett.
After running down polls showing public doesn't want Clinton impeached: "Where does the arrogance come from, from the House. Where does it come from Bob?"
"Volcanic pressure being applied. What drives this ideology? Hatred of this man? What?"
"Is Ken Starr an ideologue? Is he a member of a vast right wing conspiracy?'
"Knowing that this ideological pit bull was after him, my characterization not yours, what on God's green earth was your client thinking when he thought that he could be serviced in the corridors of the Oval Office when everybody in the world was out to get him?"
"That I understand and I love him maybe more than you do Bob but I know that he lied to you not once but the good lawyer that you are I am positive that you asked him ten different ways whether or not he had done Monica Lewinsky."

-- In the midst of this convoluted question to Lanny Davis, on the December 8 Upfront Tonight, Rivera displayed his happiness with another no vote on impeachment:
"Why doesn't he, because he is being blocked in a very undemocratic way by Tom DeLay, the hammer as he's called, whose applying, and I've reported, volcanic pressure on his colleagues to hold the line. And I'm delighted to announce that Amo Houghton, the upstate New York Republican has just said he's coming out against impeachment. But why doesn't the President preemptively just announce his contrition and his apology as if he would in censure vote, one that won't be allowed because of the Republican leadership?"


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Will Vermont families be able to travel to the hospital to visit their sick children? Only if Geraldo Rivera makes good on a bet he lost about how no one has ever been prosecuted for lying about sex in a federal civil case.

In a USA Today story last Friday reporter Kathy Kiely disclosed that Rivera has yet to make good on the $10,000 he admitted in late October that he owed. The winners want to give it to a Ronald McDonald house which hopes to buy a new transport van. Here's an excerpt from the December 4 story:

The case of Barbara Battalino, one of the convicted perjurers who testified this week in the House impeachment inquiry, could result in a Christmastime gift to the families of sick kids in Vermont.

But first Geraldo Rivera will have to make good on a bet.

Battalino's case, eerily similar to President Clinton's, came to the House Judiciary Committee's attention because of a challenge Rivera issued earlier this year on his CNBC show.

The flamboyant TV personality offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a case in which a person was penalized for lying under oath about sex.

Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, a husband-and-wife Washington legal team with close ties to the GOP, took Rivera up on the offer....

[Battalino] was fined and sentenced to house arrest after a former patient proved that she lied under oath when she denied having sex with him....

On Oct. 30, Rivera announced on the air that DiGenova and Toensing had won the $10,000 bet. They have decided to donate the money to a Ronald McDonald House that provides housing for families of children hospitalized at the Fletcher-Allen Health Care center in Burlington, Vt., Toensing said. Their grandson, now 5, had surgery at the hospital several years ago.

Pam Fenimore, an administrator at the Ronald McDonald House, plans to use the money to replace a 10-year-old van that ferries families between the house and the hospital.

"We do not know when we're going to get the check,'' she said. "Hopefully, the money will be here by Christmas.''

The check is "still in the processing stage,'' Rivera spokesman John Brine reported when USA TODAY inquired. He said Rivera's not commenting on whether the money is coming out of his own wallet, or his television network is footing the bill.

END Excerpt

Liberals like Rivera love to use anecdotes to demonstrate the insensitivity by conservatives to the needs of the less fortunate. So, will Rivera live up to his liberal ideal and fulfill his promise so sick and dying children can spend time with their families? It's already been over a month since he lost the bet and Christmas is just a few weeks away -- so he better move fast.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Finally, catching up on a Thanksgiving Eve item which shows some conservative columnists are much more cutting than I in their comments about media figures. Here's one item from Boston Herald columnist and WRKO radio talk show host Howie Carr's November 25 Herald piece on what some should be thankful for:
"Lisa Myers of NBC, for the fact that Candy Crowley of CNN is still around to make her and Jackie Judd look like Kate Moss by comparison."

That should doom any chance he'll be invited to appear again on Inside Politics or any other CNN show. -- Brent Baker

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