CyberAlert -- 03/15/1999 -- GOP: Witch Hunting, "Stupid" Cold Warriors; The Murdoch Conspiracy

GOP: Witch Hunting, "Stupid" Cold Warriors; The Murdoch Conspiracy

1) Firing on the GOP over Chinese espionage. Evan Thomas asserted that he's reminded of "witch hunts." Tom Friedman said Republicans are "stupid and proud of it" while Steve Roberts claimed "they want to say Red China" often and they "really miss the Cold War."

2) NBC's Meet the Press landed Sandy Berger as a guest, but Sunday's Nightly News ignored him, running just a 25-second item.

3) During a MSNBC look at Bill and Hillary fighting, Brian Williams and a New York Times reporter discussed how only Murdoch-owned media outlets reported the story.

4) Stephanopoulos the betrayer of Clinton, not a liar to the media and public for 7 years. MSNBC's Brian Williams urged a privilege be invoked to stop him' Katie Couric compared him to Linda Tripp, CBS tagged him an "ingrate" and PBS condemned him from the left.

5) Clinton cries, so he can't be a rapist. So argued Charles Grodin one night on MSNBC.

6) All but CNN's Wolf Blitzer ridiculed Al Gore for claiming he created the Internet. "He was involved in supporting legislation that promoted the Internet," maintained Blitzer.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The Clinton administration is alleged to have taken years to make changes after being warned to crack down on security at Los Alamos, hidden evidence from Congress and granted waivers to large corporations which donated to Democrats so they could help China build missiles that could deliver the sophisticated warheads they stole.

So who came under fire from the networks over the weekend? Naturally, Republicans and especially conservatives.

Friday night Ted Koppel dismissed the Republican charge that policy was impacted by campaign fundraising and failed to ask Sandy Berger about the idea. Newsweek's Evan Thomas, on Inside Washington, asserted that Republican concerns reminded him of "witch hunts." On Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer suggested Republicans are moving to foreign policy since Clinton "whipped them" domestically while Tom Friedman charged: "When I listen to the Republicans in Congress on foreign policy there's such an 'I'm stupid and proud of it' attitude." Steve Roberts mocked conservative concerns, claiming "they want to say Red China as often as they can. They really miss the Cold War."

-- "Spy or Scapegoat?" was the title of Friday's Nightline, referring to fired Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. Ted Koppel wrapped up his intro to the March 12 show:
"....Berger was first briefed on this story in the Spring of 1996 around the same time that Al Gore had his infamous fundraising luncheon at a Buddhist temple. Later that year was when the first revelations were made about a Chinese arms dealer visiting the White House. And then of course came the charges that China had been making surreptitious contributions to the Clinton-Gore campaign. It all seems to fit so perfectly, especially when you consider the additional charge that the administration told an intelligence official at the Department of Energy not to share what he knew with Congress. There is probably plenty of incompetence and partisanship to go around, but it is not quite as clear cut as it may seem."

In his subsequent report Chris Bury featured soundbites from both sides and outlined the charges about policies for donations. Interviewing National Security Adviser Berger Ted Koppel pressed him about the delay in taking action, but never raised the campaign fundraising issue.

-- Evan Thomas, Newsweek's Assistant Managing Editor, on Inside Washington:
"I'm suspicious of the Republicans here. I think they're trying to make some political hay. It feels like 'who lost China?' and a lot of witch hunts of the past where they see a chance to make some political capital by us not being tough enough. I don't think that's true."

-- Bob Schieffer to Senator John McCain on the March 14 Face the Nation:
"There are some people who say, 'Look, why shouldn't I believe that the Democrats and Bill Clinton have whipped the Republicans soundly on domestic policy so now they've decided they'll just take him on on foreign policy?'"

New York Times columnist and former reporter Tom Friedman to McCain:
"There's a lot of concern now in this China issue but the fact is China has 24 long-range nuclear missiles that could hit the United States. Russia 7,000. Yet the whole arms control process with Russia over START has collapsed. That was something started by Republicans. I don't hear anything coming out of Republicans complaining about that, wanting to drive that agenda. What's happened? When I listen to the Republicans in Congress on foreign policy there's such an 'I'm stupid and proud of it' attitude."

-- Steve Roberts of U.S. News & World Report, answering Wolf Blitzer's question about whether Republicans are pushing China because they can't attack Clinton over the economy. March 14 Late Edition on CNN:
"The Dow's approaching 10,000. They can hardly run by saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling you know, there's no money in your pocket. They already learned that on taxes. They tried to say we're going to put more money in your pocket. People said we already have money in our pocket. It's not much of an issue. I do think on one hand this talk about, they want to say Red China as often as they can. They really miss the Cold War, some of these guys, and they want Red China, Red China -- Dan Quayle in your interview used appeasement, very loaded word, but the administration in vulnerable, not so much on China but on this sense, more on questions of Kosovo and issues where they have not shown much resolve...."

-- At least one journalist did put the burden on Clinton's team and raise campaign fundraising. On Meet the Press NBC's Tim Russert asked Sandy Berger:
"Let me put on the screen a comment from William Safire's column and give you a chance to respond to it. He says, 'Now, we're getting to the nub of it. Yanked to a complete turnabout on trade policy with Clinton by the Riady family and other heavy campaign contributions in the satellite and computer business, Clinton didn't want Congress, empowered by law with oversight of intelligence, to know what the FBI, CIA and DOE suspected about China's spy in Los Alamos.'"


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) "This is dead serious," Tim Russert intoned about the Chinese espionage on the March 8 Hockenberry on MSNBC. Yet Sunday night, after every Sunday interview show focused on the matter and NBC's own Meet the Press hosted by Tim Russert landed the biggest guest of the day, Sandy Berger, NBC Nightly News allocated a piddling 25 seconds to the topic. Since the story broke in the March 6 New York Times the NBC Nightly News has carried just two stories, plus this March 14 item.

After a report from John Palmer on Kosovo which included a clip of Berger from Meet the Press commenting on that situation, anchor Len Cannon did not run a China soundbite from Berger in announcing:
"To another major foreign policy issue: The administration's handling of alleged Chinese espionage at the Los Alamos nuclear lab in the 1980s. Today National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said officials first got an indication of a security breach at the lab back in 1996 but the suspect was allowed to remain on the job while the investigation continued. The man, who was finally fired just last week, still hasn't been charged."

NBC may not have found what Berger said on their own show worth mentioning, but ABC did. World News Tonight provided a full story by Martha Raddatz, the show's third on the scandal though its first since March 8. Raddatz opened with battling soundbites from Bill Richardson on This Week and Tom DeLay on Fox News Sunday. Raddatz reported that Berger claimed that a 1996 briefing did not ring alarm bells, playing this clip of him from Meet the Press: "At that stage we did not know who, we did not really know how, and we didn't really know what."
Raddatz countered: "Sources tell ABC News that the 1996 briefing was specific to the W-88 and did alert Berger to several possible suspects. But it was not until nearly three years later, when Bill Richardson took over as Energy Secretary, that Wen Ho Lee's top secret clearance was suspended and security at the labs was heightened."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Friday night FNC added a reason for Hillary's anger at Bill, NBC cryptically noted how "President Clinton went home alone today to his birthplace," and then later MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams delivered the strangest bit of news judgment of the weekend: a discussion on MSNBC about a New York Times story on the state of the Clinton marriage, a discussion which soon evolved to wondering about a possible conspiracy behind how only Murdoch-owned media outlets had reported the story.

Picking up on her March 10 exclusive story about how Bill and Hillary fought during their ski trip weekend in late February, on the March 12 Fox Report FNC's Rita Cosby added: "Sources now say Mrs. Clinton was furious with her husband over comments Monica Lewinsky had made and the recent allegations that he raped an Arkansas woman in 1978. The sources say Mrs. Clinton said the President's conduct was quote 'ruining the family,' end quote..."

Over on the March 12 NBC Nightly News, over video of Bill Clinton in Hope, anchor Brian Williams reported: "President Clinton went home alone today to his birthplace, the little town of Hope, Arkansas. On a gloomy, rainy day he got a warm welcome from old friends and neighbors as he dedicated the plain wood frame home where he was born as a historic site."

Williams never informed viewers of any relevance to noting how Clinton was "alone."

None of the other networks produced a story last week on the status of the Clinton marriage, though it was raised in some morning show interviews, but Friday night MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams brought aboard New York Times reporter Frank Bruni for its feature on what appears in the next day's New York Times. In this case, not a story about the marriage but about rumors and news stories about the marriage. Bruni's March 13 story began:
"In a court of law, the evidence would have been considered laughably circumstantial. But in a city primed for scandal and hooked on scuttlebutt, it inevitably took on the cast of something significant, or at least something worth chattering about."

In the midst of discussing, on MSNBC, this New York Times story Brian Williams bizarrely asserted:
"There's the Murdoch angle. It's been broadcast now on Fox News, in the New York Post and in Mr. Drudge's column -- he has an affiliation, all of them have in common the News Corporation tie, owned by Rupert Murdoch."
Bruni picked up on the idea: "Yea, one of Clinton's advisers said, made that connection and noted that, and we talk about that just in the sense that it's indicative of the surreal, the surreal guessing game in the atmosphere that surrounds all speculation about the Clinton's private lives and a certain paranoia I think among people in the White House about the rumors that go on out there and the way in which this marriage and this administration has become such a magnet for them."

Indeed, Bruni did consider the Clinton team's paranoia worth highlighting, writing in his March 13 report:
"Perhaps best capturing the quasi-absurd flavor of this latest inning in the guessing game, another adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, attributed the conjecture to nothing less than a conspiracy of innuendo orchestrated by Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
"The adviser noted that the three news outlets that first ran accounts about the Clinton marriage this week were tied to Murdoch. Those outlets were Fox News and The New York Post, both owned by him, and The Drudge Report, an on-line newsletter whose publisher, Matt Drudge, appears regularly on Fox...."


couric0315.jpg (8664 bytes)cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Al Hunt pointed out on Saturday how George Stephanopoulos lied in 1992 to cover up Clinton's lies, but most of the network reaction to the book by George Stephanopoulos focused on how he's a betrayer of Clinton, not on how he concedes he and Clinton dissembled during the 1992 campaign and since or how he failed to inform his ABC viewers over the past two years about this, waiting until he got $2.75 million before discovering Clinton is a liar.

A special Friday afternoon extra edition of CyberAlert briefly showed how NBC's Katie Couric hit Stephanopoulos with the ultimate media insult about how "a lot of people...see you as a turncoat, a Linda Tripp type." That same Friday morning CBS's Mark McEwen at least waited until the third question before charging: "A lot of people call you an ingrate, backstabber."

Here's a rundown of noteworthy Friday through Sunday coverage for Stephanopoulos. (See the March 12 CyberAlert for details on the slant on Good Morning America and 20/20.)

The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt on CNN's Capital Gang, recalling what happened in 1992 when he was the Washington Bureau Chief:
"For those of us that knew George before he was a virgin, I want to tell you something, this book is a shocker. I'll give you one example. In 1992 we broke the story about Clinton evading the draft. James Carville and Paul Begala called me up directly. We had a fight over it to no avail because the story was right. George went behind our back and told everyone that we were had by right-wing Republicans. That was a lie and he knew it."

But not one of concern to most journalists apparently since they are focusing on how he betrayed Clinton, not how he betrayed them.

Brian Williams delivered the more typical media reaction. On Friday's The News with Brian Williams he asked liberal Democratic activist Doris Kearns Goodwin, identified on-screen as a "presidential historian," this leading question:
"I thought I'd start using George's book as a peg. Remember during the Ken Starr squabble the Secret Service said we're going to invoke something called protective privilege, meaning that if Presidents thought that these agents were going to be talking after their term of service, they would never say anything in their presence. Well why doesn't that imply more and more to White House aides?"

"I remember when Dave Stockman wrote a book about the Reagan Revolution. Washington pundits said 'oh it's honest, it's refreshing.' They weren't saying he betrayed," observed Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, whose district includes the home base for CyberAlerts, on CNN's Capital Gang. Indeed, they are now focusing on Stephanopoulos the betrayer as best illustrated by Friday's morning show interviews.

-- Couric jumped on Stephanopoulos: "A lot of people, George, think that this is just kinda creepy, that you've done this. They see you as a turncoat, a Linda Tripp type, if you will, who sort of ingratiated himself with the people inside the White House. They made you who you became and now all of a sudden, you're telling, you're airing all the dirty laundry and some people just think that's sorta gross."

-- "But aren't some situations off limits? I mean you talk very candidly about the President's relationship with Mrs. Clinton. You had entree to situations that most people wouldn't. I mean you were sitting there -- or standing there -- once when the President was in his boxer shorts and Hillary came in and they kissed and you witnessed conversations. It seems to me that, I mean is nothing sacred?"

-- Acting afraid of learning anything, Couric asserted: "Why now George? Couldn't this have waited until the President was out of office?"
And: "But couldn't they learn about those things after he left office?"

-- After exploring Clinton's appeal and how Lewinsky made him recall the Gennifer Flowers episode, Couric finally got around to how Stephanopoulos had long been part of the duplicity: "You talk about the Gennifer Flowers' tapes. Again, how you felt so duped and betrayed and yet you continued to stand by your man and in a way you became in a way 'an enabler.'"

-- Couric demanded: "Why not, if you felt so repulsed by his values, which clearly you came to that point later on. No, but I mean clearly was something you didn't feel comfortable with. I mean why didn't you leave then, George? Why didn't you say this guy's values system does not gibe with mine?"

She used much of the rest of the interview to ask about the state of the Clinton marriage and whether she'll run for the Senate.

/// See and hear Couric's opening exchange with Stephanopoulos in which she compares him to Linda Tripp. Monday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post, on the MRC home page, a RealPlayer clip. Go to: \\\

On Friday's This Morning on CBS interviewer Mark McEwen took longer to call Stephanopoulos a betrayer, but pressed the point repeatedly before asking why he didn't "bail" when asked to lie about Flowers. Here are McEwen's questions, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
-- "Let's start with the beginning of this book, this is 1992, you're sitting across from Webster Hubbell for that background check, as, before you head into the White House. Who was this guy sitting across from Webster. Where were you at, where was your head at."
-- "All Too Human, the name of this book. You're critical of President Clinton, you're critical of yourself as well. All Too Human is that Bill Clinton, George Stephanopoulos, or both."
-- "You know George, a lot of people call you an ingrate, backstabber, they say no Bill Clinton, no George Stephanopoulos. A tell all book about the man who made you as it were. James Carville, one of your buddies, said you said some things that he wouldn't have said. Paul Begala said I think this book is a mistake. Are you an ingrate, is this book a mistake?"
-- "One of the things we learn in this business, they always say don't burn your bridges. Why nuke this bridge to the Clintons?"
-- "Well, but President Clinton won't have won't let your name be said in the White House. That sounds like a bridge has been nuked."
-- "Why not wait till he got out of office?"
-- "You talk, let's go through some of the things in the book, you talk about the Gennifer Flowers, when you first heard about this tape that came out of them on the phone. And you thought what's he doing talking to Gennifer Flowers in the middle of a campaign. You said he lied if he didn't, why is he putting all of this at risk, why didn't you bail then?"
-- "You knew about Gennifer Flowers and other things that people were talking about back then, yet you helped get him elected. Do you feel responsible for Bill Clinton and for bringing, I guess, some of the tragedy of Bill Clinton, how uh this presidency has sort of come down because of the man. Do you feel responsible for part of that?"

March 11 NewsHour on PBS. Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis for the MRC, provided this summary for CyberAlert:
Like the other networks, PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer approached the Stephanopoulos book on Thursday night not with an eye to what it reveals, but why it had to be revealed. Following a graphic of the book cover and the words "What Price Loyalty?", media correspondent Terence Smith explained the book "provides an intimate portrait of life inside the Clinton White House. It is unflinching in its critique of both the President and the First Lady. The book's release has sparked debate on the propriety of White House staffers criticizing a President while he is still in office."

Smith's panel discussion included no conservatives or critics of Clinton -- Rahm Emanuel, the former Clinton flack; Kennedy intimate and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; and Peter Carlson of The Washington Post, who, Smith explained, "wrote an article earlier this week about what he called 'the American game of cashing in.'"

Smith began: "Rahm Emanuel, let me begin with you. George Stephanopoulos is a friend of yours, of course, a former colleague. Do you have any problem with what he's done?...You think that George has been disloyal?" Emanuel hesitated to criticize Stephanopoulos, saying he hadn't read the book, but "I've argued and talked on this program and other programs about a zone of privacy for public officials. I've done that in the face of press kind of piercing in on that privacy. I never thought I would have to argue about that or argue for that in the face of staff." Emanuel dominated the segment with long answers.

Smith asked Schlesinger the same question, but Schlesinger responded differently, that "As a historian, I'm delighted at anything that enriches the historical record." After Carlson detailed how Stephanopoulos was "getting while the getting was good," he also noted "When George Stephanopoulos worked for the President, his job was to make him look good. Nobody complained about that. Now he comes forward to present a more three-dimensional view, and his morals are called into question. That seems odd to me."

But Smith drove the segment back to disdain: "Arthur Schlesinger, you said you read the excerpts in Newsweek. some of those are very intimate detail about the President, the First Lady, anger, moments of despair, et cetera. Does that cross a line in your view?" Schlesinger said "Well, it's a question of taste, I suppose. If we had equal eyewitness accounts of relations between Abraham Lincoln and his wife and so on, we'd cherish them. I think that, as a matter of taste, one might feel this is too early to have these disclosures. But when you look at historical figures, anything like that is of great value." Smith retorted in conclusion: "Okay. In other words, questionable taste, but still useful history."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Clinton cries, so he can't be a rapist. Catching up on an item from last week, on a tip from a CyberAlert reader MRC analyst Mark Drake went back to the March 6 Charles Grodin show to take down the MSNBC host's insightful analysis.

Reacting to a clip of Bill Bennett on Meet the Press asserting that Bill Clinton has demonstrated a pattern of forcing himself on women, Grodin sagely observed on his weekend 8pm ET diatribe-fest:
"'Pattern of him forcing himself on women?' And Paula Jones testified that the President said to her, 'I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do.' Does that sound like a rapist? And Monica Lewinsky said when she told the President she wondered, 'Is this just about sex?' That, 'I don't really feel, you know, what is this?,' the tears welled up in his eyes. He was so, he was upset that she thought that. That's, rapists are made of different stuff than that."


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Gore ridiculed by most but defended by Blitzer. Sunday's This Week on ABC and Late Edition on CNN played the clip of Vice President Al Gore claiming on Tuesday's Late Edition/Prime Time: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet." Panelists on both shows noted how Trent Lott has now claimed in jest to have created the paper clip while Dick Armey says he created the interstate highway system.

The entire exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in RealPlayer format, can be viewed by going to:

Time's Margaret Carlson made it her Outrage of the Week on CNN's Capital Gang, wondering: "Is being a heartbeat away from the Whopper-in-Chief rubbing off on Gore?"

But on Late Edition, Blitzer, who wasn't fazed by Gore's remark in the first place during their March 9 interview, defended him: "He was involved in supporting legislation that promoted the Internet. I think that's probably what he meant to say."

Not exactly the kind of benefit of the doubt reporters extended to Dan Quayle. -- Brent Baker


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