Filegate Lacking on Networks
Three related items today, all on coverage of Whitewater and the FBI files discovered in the White House:
On Face the Nation on Sunday June 16 host Bob Schieffer explained that Republicans on the Whitewater committee leaked their report, which he asserted, charged that '"First Lady Hillary Clinton upon learning of the death of White House counsel Vince Foster dispatched her trusted lieutenants to contain any political embarrassment or political damage' -- that might arise on the night of his death. That's a very harsh, that's a very harsh assessment it seems to me. Democrats on the committee apparently have not even seen the draft of the report yet. They say it's outrageous that the committee could come to that kind of a conclusion without even interviewing the First Lady."
Here's an exchange from the June 16 Fox News Sunday between Washington
Post media reporter Howard Kurtz and host Tony Snow. (I'd note that Fox
News Sunday was the only Sunday morning show to focus on the FBI files)
Kurtz: "There's no question that the press initially blew this
While the widespread "leaking" by the Republican report from the
Senate Whitewater committee generated some publicity over the weekend
(Nightline Friday night and stories on the networks on Sunday), the
networks have hardly been aggressive in covering the FBI "filegate"
-- Wednesday June 5: Memos show that the White House received confidential FBI background files of Billy Dale seven months after the travel office chief was fired.
World News Tonight (WNT): No story
-- Thursday June 6: Washington Times has story in June 7 edition about changing White House explanation for file request.
-- Friday June 7: White House admits collecting FBI background reports on 338 Bush and Reagan officials.
-- Saturday June 8: Dole raises Watergate comparison, suggests it's an "enemies list." Dick Armey calls for hearings.
(actually World News Saturday): Does its first piece, a brief story by
anchor Aaron Brown.
David Bloom: "Never before had Bob Dole made such a detailed critique of alleged misdeeds by the White House. Making it clear once more that Republican attacks on Bill Clinton's character will be at the centerpiece of this campaign. David Bloom, NBC News, Marietta, Georgia.
-- Sunday June 9: Chief of Staff Leon Panetta appearing on Meet the Press apologizes, sort of.
Lead story by Jerry King. Anchor Carole Simpson's introduction:
"President Clinton, traveling out West, had to battle to keep his own
issues on the agenda. It was thanks in large part to his likely opponent,
Bob Dole, who hammered away at the latest issue in the campaign, those FBI
background files that ended up in the White House."
-- Monday June 10: Bill Clinger, Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, says the White House may have received more than the 339 files.
#3. Full story on the scandal by Brit Hume.
-- Tuesday June 11: Two former WH
counsels, Fred Fielding and C. Boyden Gray, say they are baffled by how
files got into White House; Washington Times reports that FBI procedures
-- Wednesday June 12: President Clinton apologizes, says "I'm sorry that it occurred" and that he "would never tolerate or condone any kind of enemies list."
-- Thursday June 13: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch announces hearings would be held; a former FBI agent writes Wall Street Journal op-ed saying White House explanation "is really too much for this FBI veteran to believe;" FBI announces overhaul of procedures; New York Post reports that civilian army staffer Anthony Marceca was specifically requested by WH and has ties to Democratic politicians.
-- Friday June 14: FBI Director Freeh issues report that charges White House with "egregious violations of privacy," says he and FBI were "victimized," reveals that 408 files obtained, up from 339.
-- Saturday June 15: Day after stunningly critical FBI report that contradicts initial WH line.
-- Sunday June 16:
No story, but full story on GOP Whitewater report
Last Tuesday (June 11) at the National Press Club, Tom Brokaw insisted: "Someone said to me on the way in here today...that there's not enough outrage out there about the FBI files, for example, that have ended up in the Clinton administration and the Clinton White House, at the moment. It's not because the press hasn't publicized this."
NBC Nightly News didn't air a FBI story that night, or the next, or the next. Another one ran three days later -- on Friday when Freeh's report came out.
-- Brent Baker