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VIEWER'S GUIDE
TO TALK NEWS

Who's who among talking heads
in the Starr vs. Clinton "trial by media"

This Guide was featured on the PBS Lehrer NewsHour special 10-19-98,
"Television Lawyers" and on the associated PBS website.

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NOTE: If talk news pundits are the judges and jury in the current "trial by media," what are their backgrounds and agendas? Nobody in the debate is truly objective or unbiased but letting audiences know the ideological baggage carried by pundits at least allows viewers to adjust their filters.

Most of these experts fall on either side of a political stance regarding Clinton and Starr. A few will mix it up and stick to objectives of law and ethics in media and politics while being more skeptical of Starr than cheering. These few -- a small handful -- argue reasonably and are not strident. They exemplify the best on the talk news circuit in the impeachment debate. You may not agree with our selections. In the battle of biases we have ours, too. From our perspective a short list of the best would include:

* Cynthia Alksne
* Elizabeth Arnold
* James Cole
* Joe Conason
* Gene Lyons
* Jeralyn Merritt
* Wendy Murphy
* Gerry Spence

We commend these people for speaking up, for educating us, and for reminding us that the impeachment debate has gravity far beyond hidden agendas, partisan power-grabbing, or "news as entertainment."

This Viewer's Guide was pulled together by Jane Prettyman, editor of TRNP, who is a member of the Green Party of California (which has nothing whatsoever to do with TRNP). The notes on each talk news personality are gathered from skimpy news reports, words blurted out on the air, and from researchers. You might want to start your own Viewer's Guide and keep track of them yourself. Some entries here may be outdated in fast-moving events. We respond quickly to errors or omissions. If you haven't already, you might want to skip down to additional "Notes" before winding through the whole list.

Also see Tough Chat by Joshua Micah Marshall.


Leslie Abramson: ABC legal analyst. Defense attorney to Erik Menendez and the young man who killed a girl in a Las Vegas casino. Vehemently argues the defense position on most cases. A very intelligent woman who is loved and hated for speaking up for (and practicing) the principle that every accused has the right to a good defense.

Whitney Adams: "Former federal prosecutor," "Independent Women's Forum" (Scaife-funded), pro-Starr, anti-Clinton. See full details about IWF in Starrletts and Scaife Babies.

Cynthia Alksne: “Former federal prosecutor.” Smart, level-headed, argues against Starr's tactics but critical of Clinton too. Believes Starr gives prosecutors a bad name.

Alksne's bio on the MSNBC website indicates an impressive background. She began her law career as an assistant district attorney for Kings County, New York in 1985. As an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas from 1987-1991, she represented several of the state’s universities in employment discrimination cases; state mental institution cases involving patient abuse and civil rights violations; and racial discrimination at various state agencies. She was a DOJ prosecutor 1991-96 where she prosecuted street crimes in the District of Columbia. She wrote and argued criminal appeals on constitutional issues, including search and seizure; investigated and prosecuted police officers for brutality; and eventually returned to full-time prosecutions of sex crimes.

Now this is a real prosecutor for you. No wonder she's so critical of Ken Starr.

Her latest gig (as of Feb 1999) is holding down the liberal end of the argument on MSNBC's "Equal Time" opposite Ollie North.

Gloria Allred: "Trial attorney." In news talk debate, she's fair to Clinton and worried about Starr's tactics.

Jonathan Alter: Newsweek reporter, doesn’t like Starr and skeptical of Clinton.

Elizabeth Arnold: Panelist on Washington Week in Review. Usually quite sharp and objective as a political analyst. In Clinton v. Starr, calls it either way as she sees it.

Don Baer: "Former Clinton White House spokesman." Comments along the lines of his title.

Charles Bakaly: Official spokesman for Ken Starr, hired late April 1998.

Mike Barnacle: Recently suspended, then resigned columnist Boston Globe. Bright guy. Doesn't like BC, not fond of Ken Starr either.

Michael Barone: Editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest which has a distinguished history of breaking cockamamie GOP smears, notably Willie Horton, as news. Conservative, dislikes Clinton, backs Starr all the way.

Bradford Berenson: "Criminal defense attorney," pro-Starr.

Chris Black: Boston Globe. Argues against Starr's tactics.

Tony Blankley: Former press spokesman for Newt Gingrich, now a writer for George Magazine. Pro-Starr, strongly anti-Clinton. Snide, like his former boss.

Wolf Blitzer: CNN White House correspondent, persistent underminer of anything Clinton says or does, because he is President and Wolf would like to be, ever since he got a taste of glory in CNN's coverage of the Gulf War.

Ken Bode: Moderator of Washington Week in Review (PBS). Replaced Paul Duke a few years ago and ruined the show by consistently finding a “hot line” to introduce each program and focus on scandal. Too full of himself by half.

Gloria Borger: Meet the Press, US News & World Report.

Robert Bork: After Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckleshouse had refused Nixon's order to fire Watergate Independent Prosecutor Archibald Cox and been themselves fired by Nixon, Bork (who was Solicitor General, third in hierarchy at Justice) stepped up to the plate and fired Cox in the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Bork is a former appeals court judge and unsuccessful Supreme Court nominee of Ronald Reagan.

Brent Bozell: "Media analyst," director of the hyper-conservative Media Research Center. See article about MRC on this site.

Mark Braden: "Former RNC general counsel" (gray hair, beard). He's the attorney for Richard Porter, a Starr law partner who has reportedly worked for years to scuttle President Clinton on any cockamamie grounds he can find.

David Brock: Conservative journalist converted to objectivity although still conservative and that’s fine, now a somewhat “Reasonable Republican.” Recanted his Troopergate story in American Spectator, apologized to Prez in April 98 Esquire. Came out as gay. Has been getting hit hard by hard right since he discovered admirable qualities in Hillary Clinton, hence his swing away from arch-conservatism.

Bay Buchanan: co-host of CNBC “Equal Time,” (conservative counterpoint to co-host, the very funny Steffanie Miller), sister and campaign manager of Pat Buchanan.

Pat Buchanan: Perennial presidential candidate, advocate of economic nationalism, formerly on CNN's "Crossfire." So conservative, he's liberal.

Vincent Bugliosi: Criminal prosecutor of murderer Charles Manson. Author of bestseller “Helter Skelter” and the recently published “No Island of Sanity” about SC’s decision to let the Jones case proceed; he thinks it was a grave mistake and his book is worth reading (skip first chapter). See summary and review on this site.

Jack Burkman: "GOP consultant," also labeled as a "legislative attorney" which is a sobriquet for his role as Senate Republican counsel on Alfonse D'Amato's Whitewater Committee where he "coordinated questioning of Webb Hubbell." Fiercely pro-Starr, anti-Clinton. Avid for Dan Burton.

Joseph Cammarata: Former Paula Jones attorney. Consistently anti-Clinton, of course. Paula stiffed him with a huge legal bill.

Tucker Carlson: Weekly Standard, bow-tie, looks like recent high school grad. Vehemently anti-Clinton, pro-Starr, pro-Jones, pro-Burton. God help us if this is the face of the New Right.

Jay Carney: Time Magazine, young, anti-Clinton.

James Carville: 1992 campaign manager of Bill Clinton. Married to conservative Mary Matalin. James is the leading “outspoken” anti-Starr voice in the Starr-Clinton debate. Not a fan of Paula Jones either. His book on Ken Starr, "The Horse You Rode In On," has just hit bookstores, loaded with explosive facts about our "Independent" Counsel. Read it.

Margaret Carlson: Time Magazine, Capital Gang.

Marcia Clark: Lead prosecutor of O.J. Simpson, sub-in host for Rivera on CNBC.

James Cole: Was special counsel in the Gingrich ethics inquiry of 1996. One of the straightest shooters in Washington, very fair minded, a skillful negotiator.

Joe Conason: Journalist writing for the New York Observer and the online web magazine, Salon. Conason is a major investigative reporter on alleged payments to Starr’s star witness David Hale from funds of Richard Mellon Scaife. He broke several other stories in the past year, including the Peter Smith payments to the Arkansas troopers, the role of George Conway in the Paula Jones lawsuit (in February 1998, he was first to suggest collusion with Starr of Federalist Society types), and the existence of the Arkansas Project.

Conason is cool-headed and fairly objective although also fairly consistently pro-Clinton in his talk-news commentary, citing exculpatory information in Whitewater, for example. He was an investigative reporter for years on the Village Voice where he covered three Presidential campaigns, the Iran-Contra affair, and also served as a foreign correspondent in the Philippines and China.

Roger Cossack & Greta Van Susteren: Co-hosts CNN “Burden of Proof.” Sharp, fair, objective, no nonsense.

Ann Coulter: Identified as a “legal expert” or "Constitutional lawyer." Was employed by the Center for Individual Rights which received $100,000 from the Scaife Carthage Foundation in 1997 (Source: EditWest). Long blond hair, sarcastic fast-talker, sounds like she's on speed. Wildly anti-Clinton, pro-Starr, a proud member of the "Freepers" cult who hold up Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp as heroines. Ms. Coulter wrote a column for Human Events, a Scaife-funded conservative magazine, until October 1998 when she became too busy promoting her book "The Case Against Bill Clinton" which argues that "It's enough for the President [to be impeached] to be a pervert." Her book was published by the hard-right Regnery Publishing House, which has put out other anti-Clinton tracts by Clinton-haters Gary Aldrich and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Her background includes founding the conservative Cornell Review (see Laura Ingraham below, another Blond Bomber, who co-founded the conservative Dartmouth Review--one wonders whether there was a shower of "Body Snatcher" pods that landed on college campuses in about 1979). Coulter founded a local chapter of the Federalist Society, a libertarian-style legal group to which Ken Starr also belongs. Coulter is known more as a Libertarian than a Conservative. She was reportedly fired by MSNBC for insulting a Vietnam veteran on air and now flits around other venues of the shout-news circuit promoting her book and explaining her involvement with the Paula Jones legal team, her acquisition of one of Tripp's tapes before it ever got to Starr, and . . . stay tuned. Overall, Coulter is a quintessential example of an active player in the get-Clinton crowd posing as a legitimate "legal analyst" on talk news while her background outlined here is unknown to viewers until she is finally cornered and pinned to the mat with the facts.

See Starrlets and Scaife Babies for more on Coulter's background.

Lanny Davis: Former WH counsel to Pres. Clinton. The most ubiquitous supporter of President Clinton's position in the Clinton-Starr debate.

Suzy deFrancis: "GOP consultant." Commentary according to her label.

Joseph diGenova & Victoria Toensing: Husband & wife. Currently working as a team of prosecutors investigating alleged election improprieties in the Teamsters union. Toensing (who speaks with her head tilted away from camera) spoke at length on Brian Williams “The News” show on 4-28-98 about allegations defined as "proven" about union activities not yet proven; Toensing discussed these on air at length while still actively involved in the probe, thus completely blowing her objectivity and perhaps tainting the outcome of the investigation. Democrats have questioned whether diGenova & Toensing have really been doing the work they're paid for on the Teamsters investigation, since they spend so much time appearing as pundits on talk news shows. They have refused to allow committee Democrats to see their time sheets. Both are long-time conservatives, consistently pro-Starr (reportedly socially close to Starr), anti-Clinton.

Victoria Toensing: Former deputy assistant attorney general under Reagan.

Joseph diGenova: Independent counsel who, some say, whitewashed the Bush admin's monkey-business in the Clinton passport scandal.

Update May 8, 1998: Because of criticism noted above, diGenova & Toensing abruptly withdrew from their contract with MSNBC where they have appeared nearly daily as paid legal political analysts on various talk and news programs, and vowed to forgo all public commentary on Starr vs. Clinton debate, limiting comments to their clients' cases. Too late. Over the past 6 months they'd already done most of the damage they could do in the Starr-Clinton media trial. Update October 1998: With the impeachment issue, suddenly DiGenova & Toensing are BAAAAAAAACCKK and spouting their gloating opinions all over talk news.

E.J. Dionne: Washington Post columnist. Wrote a "censure and move on" column 10-10-98.

Sam Donaldson: ABC “Prime Time” and “This Week with Sam & Cokie.” Full of himself.

Bruce Fein: Billed as "constitutional lawyer," wrote for the conservative Moon-owned Washington Times, heads up something called Operation Integrity. [More info on this outfit to come] Source: EditWest

Peter Fenn: "Demo consultant."

Howard Fineman: Newsweek reporter. Smooth, glib, self-serving.

Kellyanne Fitzpatrick: ID'd as “Republican pollster” (blond), owner of The Polling Company which some people call "the Woolworth of polling firms." Conservative, ubiquitous on talk news circuit. Pro-Starr, anti-Clinton.

Andrew Fois: Former Assistant Attorney General in Clinton administration. "President Clinton must defend the Presidency and let the courts decide about his assertion of executive privilege . . . Starr neglects the Seal case which holds that evidence he seeks beyond executive privilege must be critical and unobtainable by any other means." See transcript from "Burden of Proof," CNN 5-1-98.

David Frum: Writer for conservative Weekly Standard (owned by Rubert Murdoch). Typical quote: On MSNBC Big Show with Keith Oberman 4-1-98 he said: "Bill Clinton has teams of goons roving around the country silencing witnesses."

John Fund: Wall Street Journal. Conservative. Pro-Starr. A nasty little pipsqueak who hates Bill Clinton with a purple passion.

Jack Furlong: “Criminal defense attorney,” thinks Paula Jones is a crock. Excellent mind, fierce debater.

Todd Gaziano: Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Bush and, for a short time, Clinton. Senior Fellow at the Heritage Foundation which received $475,000 from combo of two Scaife foundations in 1997 (billed as a former Republican policy advisor) (Source: EditWest). Began appearing often on CNBC and MSNBC in April-May 1998. Hands flailing in the air, Todd takes on the appearance of a shrill man desperate to denounce Clinton while praising Starr to the skies.

Mark Geragos: Attorney for Susan McDougal, convicted Whitewater figure who served 18 months in prison for refusing to testify before Ken Starr's Grand Jury, re-indicted for criminal contempt for continuing to refuse to testify because she believes that if she tells the truth that Clinton did not pressure Hale to make the $300,000 loan to her, Starr will use Hale's testimony otherwise to charge her with perjury. Geragos is a tough scrapper who vows to call Starr and his top prosecutor Ewing as defense witnesses at Susan's trial. "Stand Up to Starr" is the McDougal Legal Defense Trust Fund (201 N. Figueroa St., 5th Floor, Los Angeles CA 90012. 888-785-1885). Geragos tried to describe Barbara Olson's (screen 2) Starrian political connections on air during a Rivera Live show in April 1998 and was abruptly cut off.

Ben Ginsberg: "Former GOP consultant."

William Ginsburg: Former attorney to Monica Lewinsky. Loose cannon.

Robert Giuffra: Former counsel on Alfonse D’Amato’s Senate Whitewater committee. Pro-Starr, anti-Clinton.

Lucianne Goldberg: Former dirty trickster for Richard Nixon’s political campaign, fronting for her then-husband's Intelligence-connected newspaper. Rabidly conservative, anti-Clinton, pro-Jones, Queen of Free Republic website ("The Freepers" whom che calls "my sweeties"). Book agent, lately the literary muse of Linda Tripp. Having a blast since Clinton admitted his Great Mistake with Monica.

Charles Grodin: The Charles Grodin Show. Consistently anti-Starr and pro-Clinton. His show has been the oasis of sanity among all news talk programs during the Clinton-Starr Wars.

Jeff Greenfield: CNN correspondent (formerly at ABC). See “Debate with Jeff Greenfeld on Grand Jury Leaks” on this site.

David Gregory: MSNBC White House reporter, young, blond, bushy haired. Sometimes participates in news talk opinion exchanges. Says what he knows people want to hear.

Jennifer Grossman: Seldom identified at all onscreen. Former speechwriter for Bush. A high official of the conservative Cato Institute. Appeared on Larry King (CNN) in mid-July 1998 saying she was a "friend of Linda Tripp" and allowed as how "Tripp may have been coached by Bruce Lindsey" to write her Aug 1997 letter to Newsweek's Michael Isikoff in which Tripp expressed doubts about Kathleen Willey's credibility. The significance of this is that the Gillis-Fox analysis of the "talking points" shows that the document could not have been an effort to suborn perjury, in part because Tripp had already expressed doubts about Willey. Grossman appeared to be sent forth (by whom we don't know) to counter this tenet of the Gillis-Fox analysis.

Mandy Grunwald: Former Clinton political adviser. Predictably pro-BC.

Jeffrey Harris: "Former deputy associate attorney general," vigorously anti-Starr.

Pat Harris: Susan McDougal's fiance.

Bill Henley: Susan McDougal's brother.

Amy Holmes: "Independent Women's Forum" (Scaife-funded). Haven't heard her views on Starr vs. Clinton yet, only on Viagra (5-11-98 MSNBC): "Women should be concerned about Viagra. It may ruin marriages because men may stray. Insurance shouldn't pay for men's recreation." She has no patience for the idea that Viagra might enhance marriages or compassion for working class men who suffer impotence. She's young, cute, prim.

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NOTES: TRNP is biased in our review of talk news. We favor fairness, due process of law and the Bill of Rights. We are more anti-Starr than pro-Clinton. We believe Ken Starr's investigation, culminating in the pornographic Starr Report, has been aimed toward a bloodless coup now evolving in Congress. The Starr Report on the Lewinsky matter was a pretense: 1) to get the far right's foot in the impeachment door so as to gather into one basket all the older "-gates" (already dug into inconclusively by Starr and Congress and by self-appointed independent counsel Larry Klayman); 2) to fish around further under the perilous process of impeachment (implying each charge to be "impeachable") with intent to cripple the President.

We believe the print media as well as radio and television "talk news" shows have by and large (many, not all) collaborated with Starr and Congressional GOP leadership to promote their own commercial ends. We notice (since early Oct 1998) they are becoming somewhat equivocal as they perceive the outlines of awesome GOP majoritarian partisanship about to jam impeachment down the throats of a majority of Americans.

There are a few good debaters against the Starrian position whose agendas are fairly easily discerned; former WH counsel Lanny Davis is an example. But the agendas, activities, and axes to grind of those who vigorously defend Starr's actions are hidden and far less visible. Almost none of this information is given on the air; when someone tries to speak up and blurt out this information (as happened once on Rivera to Mark Garegos), they are cut off. If the media insist on giving these people the most powerful forum on earth to mouth their opinions ex cathedra, a Guide like this is needed.

This list is a start. Some names are missing because we don't yet know much about the backgrounds of some pundits. Titles in quotes are the labels you see flashed momentarily under faces with no further ID mentioned. Write to TRNP with corrections and additional information. You have your own opinion. This Guide is our opinion, intended to wake up consumers of "talk news" to pay attention to who populates the Starr vs. Clinton "media trial"--and what sorts of ideological baggage they carry not revealed by the media who present them with straight faces.

More research is being done on groups like the media-focused conservative Independent Women's Forum (IWF) funded by Richard Mellon Scaife ($450,000 1994-1997) for which Ken Starr had offered to serve as a pro bono lawyer to file a Supreme Court amicus brief for Paula Jones in 1996. Keep an eye on the "stealth spokesmen for Ken Starr" who often (coincidentally?) happen to be members of the IWF or other Scaife-funded groups.

See more about IWF in the entry on Barbara Olson on Screen 2. IWF appears to be part of Starr's (and certainly Scaife's) media propaganda machine. In the small-world department, according to the reporting of Joe Conason of the NY Observer, Rosalie Silberman, wife of Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman (who sat on the 3-judge panel with Judge Sentelle that appointed Ken Starr as IC) is, along with her husband as well as Barbara Olson and American Spectator board member Ted Olson, socially close to Ken Starr. Mrs. Silberman was the individual who asked Starr to take on the amicus brief for Ms. Jones.

The incestuous nature of Starrian interconnections does not necessarily show a "conspiracy" but it does show an alignment of common agendas, all steered along passively (and sometimes actively) by the mainstream newsmedia. We know the Clinton White House has their propaganda machine, too, but the press is aware of this and naturally resists it in nearly every sentence of coverage by way of "unmasking government abuses." Mr. Starr is part of government yet the media have--until recently and too late (as of Oct 1998)--treated this mass of government power with kid gloves. The conservative propaganda machine is stealthy and one to which the media too easily lies down (and doesn't inform the public). This "accidental alliance" among the Starrians, the Scaifians and the Newsoids is probably the tip of the iceberg. Is America the Titanic?

Notes dated October 1998.
J.W.P.

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* Media Frenzy
* Impeachment "Coup Guide"

* Citizen Petition to Investigate Ken Starr
   
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