Drop It, and Reward Seven Months of Lies

TV Morning Shows Highlight Polls Asking If Starr Probe or Impeachment Hearings Should Be Stopped

On the morning after President Clinton admitted he lied under oath and then to the public for seven months about an 18-month affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, the TV morning shows devoted most of their shows to last night's speech. While many interview questions reflected skepticism toward Clinton, the networks' polls all suggested the Starr investigation or impeachment hearings should be stopped or prevented.

CBS's This Morning devoted its entire national air time to the Clinton speech. Every half hour, anchors noted the results of an overnight CBS/New York Times poll that showed 58 percent were satisfied that Clinton had said enough, but that 66 percent wished he would have admitted the affair in January, and that 62 percent agree that since Clinton testified, the matter should be dropped.

In addition to CBS legal expert Kristin Jeannette-Meyers, guests included Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), Clinton aides Ann Lewis and Lanny Davis, Clinton critics Stuart Taylor and Larry Sabato, Jesse Jackson, historian Carl Anthony, and Time's Margaret Carlson, who noted Hillary Clinton "made that speech tougher because she is so furious at what Ken Starr has done to her family." [See box.]

Robelot asked Ann Lewis: "There was never any apology to the public or to anyone else." When Lewis responded with "I'm not sure what else would have been there," Robelot replied: "I'm sorry, I apologize, please forgive me. We didn't hear any of those words."

ABC's Good Morning America devoted most of the show to Clinton, except for a segment on the USWest phone company strike. ABC declared its poll showed 59 percent agreed he's said enough, 69 percent said the Starr probe should end now, and 60 percent opposed resignation, an 11-point increase in one day.

In addition to staff liberals George Stephanopoulos and Jeffrey Toobin, ABC interviewed Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), right-leaning speech-writer Peggy Noonan, Jesse Jackson, historian Michael Beschloss, magazine writers Gail Sheehy, Ann Pleshette Murphy and Bob Garfield, Pete Hamill, linguist Deborah Tannen and psychologist Renana Brooks.

Many questions were tough, but there were exceptions. McRee asked Tannen: "Women who've been polled seem to put it behind them as well, and are willing to move on and forget about it. Is that because Bill Clinton's been such a great President whom they elected in great part, or is there something I want to say almost sexy about a man who can get away with things over and over again?" Kevin Newman asked Beschloss about his assertion that Clinton's the first President to confess adultery in office: "It's also the first time in history that we've cared about that. Is that a fair comment?"

NBC's Today devoted three half-hours to the Clinton speech, airing the most Clintonites. In addition to NBC's Tim Russert, guests included Clinton aides Rahm Emanuel, James Carville, Dee Dee Myers, and Clinton "spiritual adviser" J. Philip Wogaman; Newsweek's Jonathan Alter; Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Bob Barr (R-Ga.), Clinton critic Jonathan Turley; and Wesley Hagood, author of the book Presidential Sex. NBC's poll found 66 percent said Congress should not begin impeachment hearings, but only 49 percent thought Clinton adequately answered Lewinsky questions. - Tim Graham