If you want your car to go forward, you put it in "D"
If you want to go backwards, put your car in "R"

Joe Lieberman

American  Politics  Journal

American Politics Journal
459 Columbus Avenue # 294
New York NY 10024

September 14, 2000

Andy Lack
NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

Dear Mr. Lack :

We don't know how many readers of American Politics Journal caught the MSNBC-sponsored New York senatorial debate last night between First Lady Hillary and Congressman Rick "Baby Newt" Lazio last night. MSNBC buried it late on their prime time schedule, and C-SPAN ran it at 5:30 AM this morning.

Nevertheless, we're sure that quite a few of our readers tracked it down and took the time to watch.

Our publisher and senior editor both caught the full debate. Both were appalled and infuriated at the stunt that "moderator" Tim Russert pulled on Mrs. Clinton.

Out of the blue, in the middle of the debate, Russert decided to pull the same silly stunt he repeatedly uses to his own discredit on NBC's once-great Meet the Press. Russert showed clips of Mrs. Clinton taken from the January 8th, 1998 edition of NBC's Today. Before he ran the clip, Russert framed it with a snide comment on her having (quite rightfully) slammed what she referred to as a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Russert then foolishly attempted to claim that because Sen. Joe Lieberman was critical of the President's private conduct, he is therefore part of such a conspiracy.

The video footage, however, focused not on her statement that parties on the right had organized to attack her husband, but on questions concerning her husband's involvement with Monica Lewinsky -- in a Hitleresque attempt to fool the world into thinking that Hillary had "misled the nation" when she said that nothing would come from this or that or some such. The video clips were edited with the sort of flashing jump-cuts common to such "journalistic" television programs as Extra or Entertainment Tonight and were sequenced in a manner that would make a video producer for a Republican soft-money ad proud -- in fact, about the only thing missing was the not-so-subliminal flashing of the word "liar."

Remember, Mr Lack : this was supposed to have been a debate, not a commercial for Rick Lazio.

Russert then had the overwheening arrogance to "ask" her to apologize to the nation on television for "misleading" the country.

Hillary looked a little bit thrown off her pace, but she regained her cool and gave a measured, "diplomatic" answer.

We feel that Hillary would have been fully justified in walking over to Russert, slapping him in the face, returning to the podium, looking him in the eye, and saying, "Next question."

But she never should have been put in this situation in the first place.

Not only did Russert countenance unfair break-ins to Clinton's comments by Lazio, but Russert stood by during Lazio's adolescent grandstanding attempt at forcing Hillary to sign a so-called "no soft money" document which was, by legal definition (see Black's Law Dictionary if you doubt us), an assault on the First Lady for which he could be arrested. Mrs. Clinton's face and body posture is prima facie evidence that his acne-scarred antics threatened her -- the legal test of a criminal assault. Now, we all know that Lazio pulled that stunt because he's failed to raise soft money, but what did Russert do to preempt Lazio's physical theatrics? Where were the NBC producers or stagehands to stop this?

Russert has used his position at NBC to flog the Lewinsky scandal for nearly three years now. Hardly an episode of NBC's flagship political discussion show, the Russert-hosted Meet the Press, has been aired since 1998 without Russert making a direct or oblique but obvious reference to the so-called "Lewinsky scandal" or the fabricated "impeachment" that it spawned. And Russert uses his frequent appearances on other NBC and cable programs to keep the Lewinsky matter alive -- as if it were of any interest or relevance to most Americans.

And it's odd that Russert never mentions a famous incident in mid-1998 in which he reported a "breaking story," based on a story from a notorious Web gossip site, that President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had been seen together by a Secret Service agent -- a story that proved untrue.

Odder still is the fact that NBC never publicly sanctioned Russert for reporting a story that hadn't been vetted to even the standards of a high-school newspaper.

For too long Tim Russert has shown a lack of fairness, balance and disinterest when it comes to political matters. Moreover, given Russert's conspicuous ethical lapses and failure to adhere to even the most fundamental journalistic standards or principles of fairness last evening, NBC now has more than adequate reason to fire Tim Russert.

The editors of American Politics Journal hereby call upon NBC News to lower the final curtain on the walking, bloviating farce known as Tim Russert.


Gene Gaudette

Mac MacArthur
Executive Editor
American Politics Journal

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