CyberAlert -- 07/31/1998 -- Shooting Tied to Reagan

"S" Word Avoided; CBS Says Public Doesn't Care; Shooting Tied to Reagan

1) Every network but ABC too squeamish to tell viewers what Clinton supposedly left on Lewinsky's dress. Euphemism central: "physical evidence," "DNA evidence;" "stains" and "body fluids."

2) CBS argued no one cares about Clinton's affair and most oppose impeachment no matter what, but NBC sees danger for Clinton in the poll numbers. Clinton and Starr are actually equally disliked.

3) The Capitol shooting: It's Reagan's fault. NBC's Katie Couric tied it to mental health budget cuts begun in the Reagan years.

4) Hollywood stands by its man. On Saturday Baldwin and Basinger host a Clinton fundraiser. Stallone gave him boxing gloves.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) All the networks Thursday night led with the testing of Lewinsky's dress, how she had given it to her mother to hide so when the FBI searched her apartment in January they did not find it, and how she turned over answering machine tapes with messages from Clinton.
All but FNC offered new poll numbers on how the public is reacting to Clinton's decision to testify. But only one network actually said what is supposedly on the dress as the others employed vague references to "physical evidence," "body fluids" or a "stain." More on that in this item. In item #2 below some contrasts in what the competing network polls found, plus some results the networks did not air.

But first, a brief rundown on other Monicagate, or given the dress Fellategate, topics covered Thursday night, July 30 in addition to the dress and polls:
-- On ABC's World News Tonight Sam Donaldson played Clinton's "stern, unequivocal denial" from January when he declared: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Donaldson suggested Clinton has three options for August 17: a) repeat his denial; b) recant and ask for understanding; or c) modify, admit closer relationship but deny a sexual relationship.

-- CNN's The World Today. After Wolf Blitzer on the dress, Pierre Thomas looked at the evidentiary impact of the dress and audio tapes and then Candy Crowley took the temperature of Capitol Hill where she found no interest in commenting or pursuing the scandal. John King summarized CNN's poll before Jonathan Karl profiled Marcia Lewis. Karl relayed allegations about her credit card habits and desire for expensive cars, charges based on papers filed by her husband in divorce proceedings ten years ago.

-- On FNC's Fox Report Jim Angle reported in from Clinton's trip to North Carolina to highlight river clean up and like Donaldson he played Clinton's "that woman" soundbite. Later, Eric Burns evaluated Linda Tripp's complaints about being vilified in the news and entertainment media.

Now, to how each network Thursday night described what Lewinsky maintains is on her dress. In many cases if you didn't know already you'd not know after watching the network stories.

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather assured viewers that "Our check and double checked, determined to be accurate coverage begins with CBS White House correspondent Scott Pelley." But then Pelley may have been accurate, but he was hardly specific:
"The dress was an issue for investigators at the very beginning. They learned of it when Linda Tripp told them that Lewinsky showed her a black cocktail dress and boasted that it was stained with the President's body fluids."

-- CNN's The World Today. Wolf Blitzer disclosed: "CNN has learned President Clinton was unaware that Monica Lewinsky was turning over possible physical evidence of an alleged sexual relationship when he agreed to testify. Two sources familiar with Lewinsky's immunity agreement say the former intern handed over a dress that Lewinsky claims may contain that physical evidence."
Blitzer later said Clinton felt "blindsided" by the new evidence, but never specifically identified it.

-- FNC's 7pm ET Fox Report. David Shuster opened his top of the show piece: "These are good days for prosecutor Kenneth Starr. As part of Starr's deal with Monica Lewinsky this week his investigators received a dress that she allegedly kept as a type of souvenir. Sources close to Lewinsky say she has told prosecutors President Clinton stained the dress during a sexual encounter at the White House."
Julie Kirtz filed a story on how Drudge first reported a dress existed that was "stained during a sexual encounter" and then ABC picked up the charge a few days later but a search by the FBI did not locate the dress. Kirtz pointed out that Steven Brill had ridiculed the story.

-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams was a vague as possible: "Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the next big witness here who today met yet again with members of Ken Starr's staff, has apparently turned over evidence that might bolster the case against the President."
Lisa Myers explained that the FBI lab has a dress Lewinsky "turned over as evidence of her relationship." Without broaching where the DNA came from, Myers elaborated: "Of all the evidence in this case so far, the navy cocktail dress, possibly containing the President's DNA, is the most explosive. First the lab will determine what substance is on the dress, if any, and whether there is enough to make a DNA finding." Later, she narrowed the source down a bit: "Experts say the FBI lab could know within a day if there are bodily fluids on the dress."

-- Only ABC's World News Tonight actually told viewers what Lewinsky claims Clinton left on her dress. Jackie Judd reported: "Legal sources say Lewinsky told prosecutors the dress was stained with semen and would offer proof of a sexual relationship with Clinton."

Amazing how grown men and women, at least network news executives, are so afraid of that two-syllable word.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) ABC and CBS highlighted their own polls Thursday night showing high approval for Clinton and how they proved the public really doesn't care about the Lewinsky scandal and that he certainly should not be impeached over it. CBS went to St. Louis and Hollywood to demonstrate how most don't care if Clinton had an affair. The question facing Starr is whether the President committed perjury, but CBS didn't ask about that. NBC discovered similar numbers with similar questions, but NBC's Claire Shipman concluded the NBC News poll shows the President "may need to reconsider his strategy" and offer an explanation.

ABC anchor Charlie Gibson announced on World News Tonight:
"According to a new poll, from ABC News, more Americans than ever believe President Clinton did have an affair with Monica Lewinsky, but fewer think he should pay for it with his job. According to the poll conducted last night, 68 percent now say they think the President did have an affair, up 15 points from January. Only 39 percent say he should be impeached if he lied under oath about it, that's down 16 points since January. Only 42 percent now think the President should be impeached if he suggested ways Monica Lewinsky could conceal the affair. And overall 66 percent agreed with the statement that they are unhappy about Clinton's behavior in the Lewinsky affair but it has nothing to do with his job as President."

Over on the CBS Evening News Dan Rather highlighted how "The President was in North Carolina today, where despite all his legal and political troubles, he got a warm welcome. The President and Vice President Gore were there to announce a restoration and preservation program for 14 American rivers." Rather continued: "A new CBS News poll out tonight finds President Clinton's job approval rating still riding high at 61 percent, little changed from the week before [when it was 64 percent]. And what do Americans think about the investigation of the President?"
For the answer CBS went to Jerry Bowen at a baseball park in St. Louis. He revealed that the CBS poll discovered 71 percent think that Clinton had an affair with Lewinsky, but "like St. Louis fans more interested in McGwire chasing Maris's record than allegation the President was chasing Monica, the poll found most Americans, 67 percent, don't think it's important to know if the President had an affair."
Following clips of a St. Louis woman followed by a California woman saying Clinton's personal life is irrelevant to his job, Bowen argued that the women are like "54 percent of Americans in the poll who find the President credible, more credible than either Lewinsky [on-screen 36 percent] or Linda Tripp [on-screen 36 percent], he is someone the grand jury should believe."
Bowen noted that Americans are evenly divided on if Clinton encouraged Lewinsky to lie, "but a majority said if he did that would be important for the public to know." (The poll results on the Web site reveal a wide 60 to 34 percent split on that question.)
As if Hollywood reflects America, Bowen continued his crusade: "In Los Angeles, screenwriter Monty Nicholson (sp?) said that should not force Mr. Clinton from office."
Monty: "It's tawdry, it's sad, it reflects very, very badly on the White House, but I don't think it reflects anything as far as a criminal proceeding."
Back to St Louis Bowen managed to find one person who cared if Clinton lied before returning to the first woman he showed: "Most Americans would not favor Mr. Clinton's resignation or impeachment, even of the allegations prove true. More than half favor a simple apology or just forgetting about it." After the woman's soundbite about how a CEO would just get a divorce and not be fired, Bowen concluded by conceding: "That's how they score it now, but this is one game of hardball that's not over."

In stark contrast, NBC painted Clinton as in some trouble with the public. Noting Clinton's policy of denial and refusal to offer an explanation, on NBC Nightly News Claire Shipman asserted:
"The latest NBC News poll shows that the President may need to reconsider his strategy. His approval rating is still high at 68 percent, but 56 percent of those polled think he should address the American people. 42 percent believe Monica Lewinsky's version of events while only 29 percent believe Clinton's. Moreover, 43 percent think trying to cover up an affair may be an impeachable offense, up from 39 percent last month."

Though she delivered a contrasting spin, Shipman left out two very interesting numbers reported in the results listed on the Web site:
-- In conflict with the CBS theme that lying about sex is no big deal, NBC found the public considers "lying about sex as serious as lying about any other matter, 54 to 39 percent."
-- Clinton and Starr are disliked equally: "Given a list of figures in the case and asked whom they dislike most, 32 percent of respondents chose Tripp. Clinton's share was 22 percent, followed by 21 percent for Starr and 13 for Lewinsky."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Katieccap.jpg (26562 bytes) Capitol shooting: It's Reagan's fault. As sure as sunrise follows sunset, whenever anything bad happens that someone can tie to federal spending eventually a member of the media will blame it on Ronald Reagan. Now that Bryant Gumbel is no longer o TV everyday and the CBS brass has reigned him in on his CBS show it took a bit longer than usual this time, but five days after the shooting NBC's Today and Katie Couric came through.

In the second half hour on Wednesday, July 29, Kelly O'Donnell provided a set-up piece on schizophrenia and how "Russell Weston Jr. is among an estimated two and a half million Americans who have this chronic mental disorder which often involves delusions and in extreme cases can lead to violence." Observing that John Hinkley and the Unabomber were schizophrenic, O'Donnell wondered: "Could any of it have been prevented? Did the mental health system do enough?"
Dr. Dave Davis, forensic psychiatrist: "The problem is with monitoring these people that there's no way to monitor them or keep up with them because they're free to not be treated."
O'Donnell: "Free of the forced commitment to institutions that was common a generation ago. During the Reagan era federal spending for mental health dropped about 25 percent. Funding has continued to go down ever since. Today as many as half of the homeless are believed to be the untreated mentally ill."

In the segment O'Donnell set up Katie Couric questioned two psychologists. Her final inquiry, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
"Quickly, we're almost out of time, but it seems to me that money is an issue. That funding was cut 25 percent during the Reagan administration. It's gone down ever since. Don't we need to funnel more money into helping these people? The fact that half of the homeless population may be untreated mentally ill is a real tragedy don't you think Dr. Bernstein?"

Of course, it was really liberals who pushed through laws in the late '70s making it much harder for states to involuntarily commit the mental ill. With fewer patients to care for funding naturally fell. But the shooting is the responsibility of the one man who pulled the trigger.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) As the quote from the Hollywood screenwriter in item #2 above demonstrated, that community will always stand by Clinton. Tomorrow, they will show their support again with a big fundraiser on Long Island.

As reported by Annie Groer and Ann Gerhart in their Reliable Source column in the July 2 Washington Post, actor Alec Baldwin "and his wife, Kim Basinger, are throwing open the doors of their Amagansett home to President Clinton for a DNC fundraiser Aug. 1. The gathering, advertised as a 'summer lawn party,' is expected to draw Robert DeNiro, Helen Hunt and other glittery people among the 100 or so guests. Tickets: $250 to $1,000. It's just one of the stops Clinton will make on a dining-for-dollars weekend in the Hamptons."

Baldwin and Basinger will be the second actors to host a fundraiser for Clinton in under a month. Three weeks ago actor Sylvester Stallone provided his home for a big Democratic fundraiser. As detailed by Tom Fielder and Manny Garcia in the July 10 Miami Herald:
"President Clinton was the guest of honor, but Sylvester Stallone stole some scenes Thursday night as a $5,000-a-plate dinner at Stallone's Miami mansion raised more than $800,000 for Democratic coffers.
"Dressed all in black, Stallone compared the President with his character in Rocky. Holding up his battered boxing gloves from the first Rocky movie, he presented them to Clinton, saying they 'exemplify the character in an uphill battle that doggedly asks for one more round and keeps punching and punching and finally gets his victory.'
"Clinton responded: 'I think I have established that I can take a punch. Now the time has come to show I can deliver one,' he said to cheers."

Hollywood will at least make sure the Democrats have all the money they need to buy TV advertising to throw those punches at Republicans and conservatives. -- Brent Baker

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