CyberAlert -- November 8, 1996 -- GOP Witch Hunts

Five items today:

1. The DNC returned donations to two large foreign donors, but CBS and NBC ignored the news. Reporting Senator D' Amato's decision to not hold Whitewater hearings, NBC heralded the end to"high profile political witch hunts," which they barely covered.

2. In 1994 Newsweek's Evan Thomas dismissed Paula Jones as "some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks." Now he believes her story, but has yet to put anything in his magazine.

3. Media which regularly ignored opinionated insults of conservatives erupted with rage at David Brinkley for criticizing Clinton. Larry King said it's what he would expect from a "wacko talk radio" host like Limbaugh, North or Liddy.

4. A bunch more biased quotes from election night.

5. An actress told David Letterman she was "very happy" Clinton won, found it "very sexy" to meet him, and voted for him because he's "enormous."

1) A front page story in the November 7 Los Angeles Times reported: "The Democratic National Committee said Wednesday that it is returning one of its largest 1996 campaign contributions, $325,000, to Yogesh K. Gandhi because it could not verify that he was the source of the funds." On Thursday the DNC returned a $50,000 donation to a Greek businessman.
So how did the networks play this confirmation of the pre-election GOP charge that the DNC took money from foreign nationals, which is illegal? Not a word on the November 7 CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News. Only ABC's World News Tonight covered it. Reporter Jackie Judd put the news at the top of her piece on Republican plans to investigate Clinton.

But Thursday's NBC Nightly News found time to report D'Amato's announcement and to disparage the quest for information. Jim Miklaszewski's story started with the news of cabinet resignations, then moved to D'Amato. Here's the end of his report:
Jim Miklaszewski: "One of the Clinton's chief antagonists in Congress, Senator Alfonse D'Amato, announced his Whitewater probe is over"
D'Amato: "I think if we get into this business of looking like we're out to fish, to bring up something to embarrass the President. I don't think that's good for the country."
Miklaszewski: "White House officials are under no illusions and still expect Republicans to vigorously pursue investigations on other fronts. But they're also encouraged that D'Amato's announcement may signal an end to any high profile political witch hunts. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the White House."

When the Senate held four weeks of hearings chaired by D'Amato in July and August 1995 NBC Nightly News ran a grand total three stories.

2) Newsweek Washington bureau chief Evan Thomas has discovered that Paula Jones may have some credibility. On the November 3 Inside Washington the panel discussed the new American Lawyer article in which reporter Stuart Taylor learned that "a comparison of the Paula Jones and Anita Hill episodes suggests that the evidence against the President is far stronger than the media has let on -- and far stronger than the evidence against [Clarence] Thomas."
On the show Evan Thomas explained: "There are two witnesses here that matter, there are two friends of Paula Jones that she spoke to right after the alleged incident. And they do not generally make their story available to the press, generally. They talked to one reporter from the [Washington] Post, Mike Isikoff, and the Post worried about whether to do this story for a long time, finally ran a kind of somewhat diluted version of it, and nobody talked to these women. Now, Stuart has gone back and talked to them and they paint a pretty bad tale."
Nina Totenberg, who first publicized Hill's unsubstantiated an uncorroborated charges, then asserted: "There are two things in this article: one is the examination of the evidence which is fair game and not dramatically new but very interesting and somewhat compelling. The other is the Anita Hill argument and I would say that's apples and oranges. This woman is going to get her day in court or she's going to settle, one or the other."

When the Jones story first came to light Evan took a bit different approach. On the May 7, 1994 Inside Washington he declared:
"Yes, the case is being fomented by right-wing nuts, and yes, she is not a very credible witness, and it's really not a law case at all...some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks...I think she's a dubious witness, I really do."

The American Lawyer article has been out for two weeks. So what has Evan Thomas put in Newsweek. MRC analyst Steve Kaminski reports nothing appeared in this week's or last week's issue.

3) Yesterday's CyberAlert reported how at the end of ABC's election night broadcast David Brinkley noted the creativity of his ABC colleagues, and then charged that "Bill Clinton has none of it. He has not a creative bone in his body. Therefore he is a bore and will always be a bore." I also predicted that his remarks would become big news as the journalistic community cringed at the anti-Clinton remarks.

Well, Thursday's newspapers brought plenty of stories and a remark earlier election night that didn't air on ABC's Washington affiliate. Just after Clinton finished his speech, at about 12:30am ET, this exchange occurred, as printed in the November 7 Dallas Morning News. (Rush Limbaugh on Thursday also played a tape of Brinkley's comments.)
Brinkley: "I wish to say that we all look forward with great pleasure to four years of wonderful, inspiring speeches full of wit, poetry, music, love and affection. More goddamn nonsense."
Peter Jennings: "You can't say that on the air, Mr. Brinkley."
Brinkley: "Well, I'm not on the air."
Jennings: "David, we are on the air."
Brinkley: "Too bad. I told you I was leaving."

Thursday night the controversy led Larry King's CNN interview with Ted Koppel. King called the remarks "mean-spirited," and something he'd expect from "wacko talk radio" hosts like Limbaugh, Oliver North or G. Gordon Liddy. [There will be more of King's comments in the next CyberAlert.]
All fall reporters regularly referred to Bob Dole as "harsh," but no controversy erupted. Back on the February 20 Today show Bryant Gumbel derided Pat Buchanan as "Mr. Puke-anan."
I'm still waiting for the media consternation.

4) Here are some more quotes from election night coverage on NBC and CBS, as collated by Steve Kaminski, Geoffrey Dickens and Joe Alfonsi.

  • Dan Rather: "How concerned is the President about the potential of his being, sort of, tied down as Gulliver was by the Lilliputians, by all this scandal investigation, ethics investigations that are bound to be unleashed?"
  • Dan Rather to Senator Trent Lott: "True or false, that part of the Republican agenda is now to try to paralyze the White House with so-called ethics inquiries?"
  • Tom Brokaw: "At one point Trent Lott was talking about unleashing some investigations of fundraising and other matters at the White House. Do you think he will pull back from that once reality sets in come January?"
  • Dan Rather: "The Colorado Senate race has been decided. Our CBS News estimate is the seat will remain Republican with Wayne Allard finishing with roughly 51 percent and Tom Strickland somewhat below that. The Democrats thought that Wayne Allard perhaps was, 'too far right' to succeed the retiring Republican, Senator Hank Brown. Turned out to be not the case, Allard wins it for the Republicans in Colorado."
  • Up next, Rather labeled a Democrat, but not as "too far left." He used a milder tag for a Minnesota Senator: "No surprises here, although Paul Wellstone, the Republicans had targeted him. They thought they had him. Frequently called the most liberal member of the United States Senate, but Wellstone has returned for a second term in Minnesota."

Brinkley may have dumped on Clinton, but here's what NBC viewers got after Clinton's speech:

  • Maria Shriver: "Tom, very emotional ending to his speech. Expressed a lot of gratitude. He said he was humbled by this victory. And I don't know if you could tell, Mrs. Clinton seemed to be brushing away some tears. A lot of hugging up on that stage. A lot of tears in this audience. A tremendous amount of emotion here this evening. A lot of young people with smiles on their face but holding each other. Certainly a night that I don't think anybody here will ever forget."
    Tom Brokaw: "We're watching the two couples on stage now. They are the icons of the baby boomer generation!"
    Maria Shriver: "That's true!"
    Tom Brokaw: "Bill Clinton and Al Gore and Tipper Gore and Hillary Clinton. They're handsome families."
    Maria Shriver: "They're picture perfect!"
    Tom Brokaw: "Right!"
  • Brokaw after 1am ET: "That's 30 Rockefeller Plaza overlooking the ice-skating rink and if Bill Clinton were here tonight he'd be down there skating to his heart's delight obviously because he's been re-elected President of the United States."
  • Brokaw: "We're back. Thirty Rockefeller Plaza there. I half expect to see Jimmy Cagney singing 'Yankee Doodle Dandy,' and dancing between those flags."
  • Brokaw: "Brian Williams, I have a question. You've been covering the Clinton White House for some time. Do you think that there is any more heroic figure, however not very visible, than Bob Rubin, who is the Treasury Secretary?"

5) On Wednesday night's Late Show with David Letterman actress Marisa Tomei appeared. Here's part of the interview:
Letterman: "Did you vote yesterday?"
Tomei: "Yes."
Letterman: "Are you happy with the outcome?"
Tomei: "Yeah. I'm very happy."
Letterman: "Have you ever met President Clinton?"
Tomei: "Yes I have."
Letterman: "Where'd you meet him? At the White House?"
Tomei: "Yeah. I met him at the White House."
Letterman: "What was that like?"
Tomei: "It was very sexy, actually. It is that whole feeling."
Letterman: "Sexy in what sense? You're not talking about the President?"
Tomei: "Well, it's a round room, first of all, the Oval Office."
Letterman: "He's an enormous guy, isn't he?"
Tomei: [taken aback, assuming a reference to Clinton's penis size] "I don't know. [pause] I'm sure. It's why I voted for him."
Letterman: "I mean he's fat, is what I was driving at."
Tomei: "Oooh."
Letterman: "He is fat."
Tomei: "I don't think so."
Letterman: "He is fat and I'm going to continue to say so."
Tomei: "No, he's healthy. He's healthy."
Letterman: "No, they say, you know they released his medical records like about a month ago to show that he was okay, he can run for another four years. And I'm telling you they fudged, because they said he's 215 [Letterman laughs]. Two-fifteen is when lunch ends for this guy."

The gender gap solved. All Bob Dole had to do was meet women in a "round room."

-- Brent Baker