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United Nations: Clinton Speech To Be Preempted On U.S. TV

  • Robert Lyle



Washington, 21 September 1997 (RFE/RL) -- When U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses today's opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, several television networks in the United States will be pointedly ignoring his remarks.

The networks, including the global CNN, say they will instead be broadcasting a four-hour video tape of Clinton's testimony on the Monica Lewinsky White House sex scandal before a secret grand jury last month.

The video tape is part of 35 boxes of evidence gathered, and conclusions drawn, by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr for his report to the House of Representatives recommending impeachment proceedings against Clinton.

Starr turned all the material over to the House of Representatives, which must make any decision on bringing formal charges, called impeachment, against Clinton.

On a largely bipartisan vote, the House agreed to publicly release a 450 page summary of Starr's report two weeks ago. It contained references to Lewinsky's charge that as a young aide at the White House, she had oral and other sex with Clinton on several occasions in his private office area.

When Clinton agreed to testify about the scandal to the grand jury called by Starr in August, he was interviewed in the White House via closed circuit TV. Afterward, he acknowledged in a brief national television broadcast, to having had an "inappropriate relationship" with Lewinsky, but he declined to reveal any details.

The Judiciary committee of the House, which handles all details of the matter, spent two days last week in what turned out to be bitter partisan wrangling over whether to release the video tape of that grand jury testimony and 2,300 other documents gathered by Starr.

In the end, the Republican party majority on the committee voted to release the tape and papers, but over the objections of Democratic party members. Democrats protested that releasing the tape and other documents was unfair and designed only as a political move to further humiliate the president.

But the Republican majority said they wanted the people to see the evidence that had been gathered by Starr and decide for themselves what Clinton had actually done.

Four networks -- CNN, C-SPAN (a network which focuses on congressional proceedings), MS NBC, and Fox News Channel -- all said they will broadcast the tape as soon as it is released today. But the networks are all advising their viewers that the four hours of tape contain some sexually explicit language.

The other major networks -- CBS, ABC and NBC -- said they will broadcast excerpts as warranted.

But all American television networks filled their programming on Sunday with repeated reexaminations of what has gone on so far in the scandal and long debates between those pushing for impeachment and those defending Clinton or at least demanding fair judicial proceedings.

The White House says Clinton will spend today doing his job as President, speaking to the U.N. session and holding a series of bilateral meetings with other foreign leaders.
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