CyberAlert -- 12/15/1998 -- Worried Clinton Out of Time

Worried Clinton Out of Time; Rivera Advising Clinton; "Stone Henry Hyde to Death!"

1) Sam Donaldson worried that by putting peace ahead of himself, Clinton will only have one day to fight. Dan Rather interrupted his newscast: "Let's pause now for a moment to underscore the importance of this week for the United States of America...."

2) MSNBC's Brian Williams demanded in two segments that his guest assess the ethics of Henry Hyde suggesting Clinton resign.

3) Peter King was labeled a "conservative" and a "moderate" by the same morning show host during the same interview.

4) In a New York magazine profile which described Geraldo Rivera as a "voice of reason," Rivera boasted of how he advises the Clinton spin team: "There was a time when I thought they had lost their courage, they were droopy and scared. I stiffened them up."

5) Actor Alec Baldwin: "If we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death!"

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Corrections. You weren't seeing double. The December 14 CyberAlert was distributed twice, about an hour apart, on Monday morning. Twice the CyberAlert meant twice the errors: As my MRC associate Tim Graham delighted in pointing out, I once again referred to Florida's Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler as Robert Trexler.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) There's too much impeachment coverage for me to see it all and Monday night all the networks led with multiple stories. ABC and CBS highlighted polls showing most oppose impeachment. ABC's Sam Donaldson, matching his concern expressed Sunday about how Clinton isn't fighting hard enough, worried that upon returning from Israel he'll only have a day before the fateful vote. In the midst of the CBS Evening News Dan Rather intoned: "Let's pause now for a moment to underscore the importance of this week for the United States of America...."

Here are some highlights from the Monday evening, December 14, broadcast shows:

-- ABC's World News Tonight opened with Sam Donaldson with Bill Clinton and how he became the first President to visit Palestinian territory. Donaldson ominously concluded:
"The President may have nudged the peace process forward here, but he may have done so at his own expense. He'll have only one full day after getting home late tomorrow night to save himself from impeachment. And there's a sense that Mr. Clinton is stealing for the worst, preparing for a defeat that a few short weeks ago few people thought would occur."

John Cochran profiled the undeclared Ann Northrup, Republican in a Democratic district in Kentucky, and noted that previously undecided Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey will vote for impeachment.

Anchor Peter Jennings then highlighted two ABC News/Washington Post polls results. "Should the President be Impeached?" No said 61 percent, yes replied 38 percent. "If impeached Clinton should" resign replied 58 percent, fight said 38 percent.

After and ad break, Jennings held an "Impeachment Watch" discussion with Cokie Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Bill Kristol.

-- CBS Evening News. After Scott Pelley checked in with Clinton in Israel, Dan Rather cited a new CBS News/New York Times poll number. Asked "Are the charges serious enough for impeachment?" 66 percent said no, 31 percent said yes.

Sharyl Attkisson looked at how a sure no vote, Chris Shays, is now wavering, as Frank LoBiondo and Zach Wamp came out for impeachment while two dozen remain undecided and are feeling the pressure. From the White House Bill Plante reported how Al Gore attacked the GOP as out of step and that People for the American Way, which Plante actually described as a "liberal lobbying group," is buying radio ads in DC, Columbus, Ohio and Philadelphia with a "move on" message.

After all that, Rather brought the show to a halt:
"Let's pause now for a moment to underscore the importance of this week for the United States of America. For only the second time in our country's history, the House of Representatives, your elected representatives, will decide whether to impeach the President, to officially accuse him of high crimes and misdemeanors. That would lead to a trial in the Senate, removal from office if convicted and the swearing in of a new President: Al Gore. It would be impossible to overstate how serious this is and how fast it is now moving. We want you to know that CBS News is committed to bringing you fair, accurate, crystal clear coverage as the House makes this momentous decision."

President Al Gore? Maybe we should just move on.

-- NBC Nightly News opened with Claire Shipman with Clinton in Israel followed by David Bloom at the White House on how Clinton is losing votes with the wavering of Shays. He explained the Clinton spin that not allowing a censure vote is unfair and that Jesse Jackson is planning an anti-impeachment protest.

Lisa Myers checked in on the moderates who are getting pressure from both sides: Jay Dickey, Bob Ney and Brian Bilbray. Later in the show, Andrea Mitchell examined how Hillary is no longer Bill's "Defender-in-Chief," as she's now pushing her issues instead as aides concede their relationship has turned icy with her now riding in a separate Air Force One compartment.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Henry Hyde's suggestion, made on Sunday's Face the Nation and This Week that Bill Clinton should resign, really bugged MSNBC's Brian Williams. He demanded Monday night that guests in two separate segments pass judgment on the appropriateness of the chair of the hearings making such a judgment.

On the December 14 The News with Brian Williams, aired at 9pm ET and PT on MSNBC and 10pm ET/7pm PT on CNBC, he inquired of Republican Congressman Peter King: "Were you surprised at Henry Hyde, after presiding over the hearings and taking great pains to say that we're trying to do this in a bipartisan way, went on one of the Sunday morning talk shows and called on the President to resign?"

Several segments later Williams asked Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, a member of the Judiciary Committee:
"I'm curious for your reaction Congressman about Henry Hyde going on one of the Sunday shows and calling for the President's resignation after he had just presided over so many weeks of hearings?"


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Is Peter King a "moderate" or a "conservative"? It depends which minute of Monday's Good Morning America you saw. MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that when ABC's Lisa McRee introduced an interview segment with the Republican from Long Island she asserted: "Congressman King is a conservative Republican who does not want the President impeached."

But barely a minute later, he had been transformed into a moderate as McRee inquired: "But this weekend that was rejected, so let's set that aside and say that censure option is not going to be available. The key for the President are all of the moderate Republicans, like yourself. How many of you are there this morning?"

Good to see McRee back on message. In the current media lexicon a "moderate" is anyone who is opposed to impeachment.

4 cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Geraldo Rivera is advising the Clinton team and is proud of how he has "stiffened them up" in their battle with Ken Starr, a New York magazine profile piece out last week disclosed though it has generated little notice. The magazine story also revealed that David Bloom won't appear live with Rivera and named who Rivera was referring to when he once complained on air about the "hypocrisy" of "a network anchor and his White House reporter" who have been "married eight times between them."

But first, the latest liberal rant from Rivera. Here's an exchange from Monday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC:
Rivera: "Is it fair though for lame duck Congressmen defeated, at least two of them because of their firm stance against the President, will be voting his impeachment as their last official act and then will go off into the shadows of the political history of the country?"
Former Republican Congressman Bob Walker: "Well I would remind you Geraldo that the reason why we are attempting to get this done before the end of the year is because that was the wish of the administration and the Democrats back when this issue first came up. They wanted it done speedily. In fact, they wanted it done by the end of November and so Henry Hyde attempted to accommodate that by saying he would have it done by the end of the year. That does bring us to a vote here at the end of this Congress but it is in line with the obligation that the Republicans decided they needed to carry out in order to do what the White House and the Democrats said they wanted."
Rivera: "Oh, come on Congressman Walker. You're saying that because the President wanted it over by the end of the year that's why we're letting the lame ducks vote? Is that being disingenuous, is that not a symbol, a symptom of?" [Rivera cut off by Walker and co-host Diane Dimond]

Now to the December 14 New York magazine profile by David Brock, once of the American Spectator, or at least I assume it's the same guy who denounced his conservative past. He's never identified. Headlined "Geraldo's Last Laugh," here's the top of the article summary: "Just when Geraldo Rivera scored a $36 million NBC contract and a shot at network legitimacy, he came out as Bill Clinton's passionate prime-time defender, driving his already scornful brethren mad. does broadcasting's outlaw really want to join the establishment, or is he having too much fun being himself?"

Brock was impressed with Rivera's exploration of the vast right-wing conspiracy, insisting: "Time and again, Rivera's journalistic instincts -- from seriously pursuing the 'right-wing conspiracy' to pointing out the political implications of the racial divide on the scandal -- have proved prescient. In a media sea of scolds and hysterics, Geraldo Rivera has emerged as the voice of reason."

Here are the most interesting items from the rest of Brock's story:

-- Rivera has long mixed his politics into his journalism: "In 1970, the telegenic attorney was spotted by the news director of WABC, who offered him a job as a reporter, but not before suggesting that Gerald change his name to Geraldo to exploit his Hispanic roots. From the start, he had difficulty balancing journalistic notions of objectivity with his personal passion. In 1972, he was suspended from the station for his vocal support of George McGovern's presidential candidacy. In a subsequent effort to embarrass Rivera, a conservative radio-show host put out the false story that Rivera's surname was actually Rivers, painting him as an ethnic opportunist."

-- Bloom won't go on air with him: "NBC White House correspondent David Bloom won't appear live on any Rivera broadcast because he doesn't want to 'get beat up by Geraldo,' according to one NBC exec. The feeling is mutual. One evening off-air, Rivera referred to NBC reporter David Gregory as a 'slightly less-well-informed guest.'"

-- Calls Jennings and Donaldson hypocrites. "On a recent Rivera Live, Rivera became so impassioned in demanding that the New York Times apologize to Clinton for its incessant coverage of the Whitewater scandal that he threw his note cards at the camera and went to an early break. 'My wife yelled at me for losing it,' he says. Another time, he railed against the 'pretense and hypocrisy' of those who set themselves up as moral arbiters, referring to 'a network anchor and his White House reporter' who have been 'married eight times between them.' (Off-air, he says he was talking about ABC's Peter Jennings and Sam Donaldson.) On the Today show, where he appears as an NBC 'legal analyst,' his friend Katie Couric upbraided Rivera for his lack of balance."

-- Advising the President's team while reporting on them. Picking up on Couric's point, in the next paragraph of the profile Brock revealed: "Certainly, eyebrows would be raised at NBC if his bosses knew, as Rivera confesses, that he also offers political advice to the Clinton team privately while reporting the story. 'They try out ideas on me and see what my reaction to it is,' he says. 'There was a time when I thought they had lost their courage, they were droopy and scared. I stiffened them up.' Far from being repentant about his bias, Rivera charges that his view of the scandal as a sexual witch hunt is impeding his career at NBC News. NBC executives, he says, have 'shot down' his proposal to do a Clinton-scandal special on the network.

Now that NBC knows about his crossing the line into political consulting, what will they do about it?


baldwin1.jpg (18915 bytes)cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Serious political commentary that should be condemned, or a humorous skit? As reports circulating the Internet have asserted, on Friday's Late Night with Conan O'Brien on NBC actor Alec Baldwin jumped from his chair to scream "We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children!"

Baldwin is a well-known defender of Clinton who held a fundraiser for him last summer at his Long Island home. Monday night on CNBC's Upfront Tonight he charged that "the ultimate goal" of impeachment advocates "is what I would call 'election nullification'" as "this is a group of people who want to undo the '96 election."

On the December 11 NBC show host Conan O'Brien wrapped up his interview with Baldwin by asking Baldwin about Clinton's plight. Baldwin answers but as he proceeds his voice rises as he jumps up from his chair and is screaming and flailing his arms by the time he's finished. Cutting to the punch line, O'Brien then jumps up and puts an air mask over Baldwin's mouth to calm him down. Funny political satire or, even if meant in jest, mean-spirited and violence-inciting words that would be condemned if uttered by a conservative?

Here's the exchange as transcribed by MRC news analyst Paul Smith.
Conan O'Brien: "Before we leave, I gotta ask you. It's no secret that you are very political. You are a very political person. It's no secret that you have actually had some associations with the Clintons. That you're a liberal man and I thought you know today, this is a historic day and you're one of the most politically active actors out there. What do you think?"
Alec Baldwin: "I was in Africa. I go to Africa. I mean ladies and gentlemen I am in Africa. For three months I am in the bush and I come back. I come back here and I come back to what? I mean what is happening right now as we speak? Right now the Judiciary Committee, the President has an approval rating of 68 percent. The President is very popular and things are going pretty good and they are voting to impeach the President. They voted on one article of impeachment already. And I come back from Africa to stained dresses and cigars and this and impeachment. I am thinking to myself in other countries they are laughing at us twenty four hours a day and I'm thinking to myself if we were in other countries, we would all right now, all of us together, [starts to shout] all of us together would go down to Washington and we would stone Henry Hyde to death! We would stone him to death! [crowd cheers] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No shut up! I'm not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and we would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and their children. We would kill their families. [stands up screaming] What is happening in this country? What is happening? UGHHH UGHHH!!!!"

Now, in your mind substitute the name Al Gore or Hillary Clinton for Henry Hyde and the name of a conservative for Baldwin. What kind of reaction would the media establishment be expressing?

To see this exchange, go to the MRC home page where MRC Webmaster Eric Pairel has posted a RealPlayer clip of what is transcribed above. Unfortunately, we taped the show on a bad VCR so, Sean reports, the sound level is rather low but if you turn your volume way up you should be able to hear it. After all, Baldwin is yelling. -- Brent Baker

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