Saturday, April 10, 2004

Satire: Clarke criticizes ABC News, lauds CBS News.

In a surprise development, former national security advisor and author Richard Clarke criticized the investigative journalism of ABC News, while lauding the work of CBS News.

Clarke became an on-air terrorism commentator with ABC News soon after he left government over a year ago. And yet, the pasty, balding Clarke remained largely unnoticed, even though "more Americans get their news from ABC News than any other source."

Clarke faulted ABC News for making Richard Clarke "an important issue, but not an urgent issue" during his service with the broadcast network's news department.

As for Clarke, some have questioned his loyalty to ABC News and its viewers. After all, Clarke withheld his most news worthy commentary from ABC News until his exclusive interview with rival network CBS's 60 Minutes, timed to coincide with the release of his new book and testimony before the 9-11 Commission.

Echoing his briefings to Congress while still in government, Clarke said it would have been "silly" for him to have made his startling claims public during an ABC News broadcast prior to the release of his book, despite any urgent threat to the nation, because all the different threats faced by the United States made it difficult to provide an assessment.

Drawing a preferential distinction between the two broadcast networks, Clarke said that CBS News had "no higher priority" than Richard Clarke.

Clarke's controversial claims about the Bush administration, leveraged by CBS's extensive pre-show publicity about them, attracted high audience ratings for 60 Minutes, which in turn catapulted initial sales of Clarke's new book Against All Enemies into best seller territory.

Meanwhile, 60 Minutes did not deign to inform its viewers at the time that CBS is owned by VIACOM, the parent company of Simon and Schuster, Clarke's publisher.

News analysts failed to see any pattern in Clarke's behavior. "Sure, we all eventually learned about the CBS-VIACOM conflict of interest thing from Drudge," said Michael Isikoff of Newsweek. "But maybe we should get serious and check-out whether Clarke's obsessive infatuation with 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl tipped the balance of his loyalties. And who could blame him? Meeeoow."

Rumors swirl that the erstwhile terrorism czar is competing with former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for the affections of the hoary Stahl.

O'Neill was the primary source for Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, a book also published by VIACOM's Simon and Schuster. Here too a much publicized 60 Minutes interview of O'Neill by Stahl was used to introduce an "inside-tell all" book that was also critical of the Bush administration. "Lesley just can't keep her hands off a posturing turncoat from any Republican administration," according to one source.

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