Quotes Questioned p.22

By: M.L. STEIN INDEPENDENT COUNSEL KENNETH W. Starr accused the Los Angeles Times of publishing a "seriously inaccurate" story that quoted an aide as saying that the Whitewater trial is designed to obtain evidence against President Bill Clinton.
From his office in Little Rock, Starr, the chief Whitewater lawyer, wrote a letter May 15 to Times editor and executive vice president Shelby Coffey III, asserting that an April 14 story by Washington staff reporter Sara Fritz misquoted Starr's chief deputy, W. Hickman Ewing Jr.
After reviewing a transcript of the interview in which Ewing's remarks were made, the Times announced in its May 18 issue that Fritz's story was incorrect in part.
Ewing, in an impromptu press conference outside the Little Rock courthouse, "acknowledged that the independent counsel's office sees this trial primarily as a way to obtain more evidence against the president," according to Fritz's account.
At this writing, a federal court jury is deliberating Whitewater-related fraud charges against the Clintons' former business partners James B. McDougal, his ex-wife Susan, and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
Starr also took issue with two other statements in the Times' account of the interview, which stated:
"According to Ewing, Starr hopes that, by winning the conviction of Tucker and the McDougals, he can persuade the three to give incriminating evidence against Clinton."
And, "As Ewing put it: 'It's the people on trial that have the information, and the people on trial haven't shared that with us yet.' "
In his letter, Starr expressed doubt that the quoted part of Ewing's comments were "entirely accurate," but added: "It is the unquoted attributions to Mr. Ewing that are most significantly in error."
The lawyer denied that Ewing said that the independent counsel's office views the trial as a means of acquiring evidence against the president.
Starr asserted that notes taken by one of his staff members of the April 11 news conference, Ewing's own recollections, and inquiries of others present at the conference revealed Fritz's story to be wrong as it applied to Ewing's responses to questions.
"Indeed, it is noteworthy," wrote Starr, "that none of the several other reporters in attendance at Mr. Ewing's public comments . . . have reported anything even approximating Ms. Fritz's report of his purported statements."
Starr said he normally does not respond to reports of the Whitewater investigation, even "factually incorrect" ones, but in this instance, he noted, Fritz's story was "trumpeted" by a White House spokesperson on national television and has been the basis of op-ed pieces "critical of this office's prosecutorial ethics and judgment."
Times Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus initially told E&P the Times was standing by the story pending its efforts to obtain a transcript of the press conference.
In publishing its correction, the Times said Fritz's report "was based on remarks to reporters [by Ewing] but a transcript shows that he was inaccurately paraphrased in the story."
"The story also stated incorrectly that the prosecutor hoped to persuade defendants in the current trial to give evidence against President Clinton. In fact, when asked directly about that possibility, Ewing refused to comment.
"Responding to other questions, however, Ewing noted that the larger Whitewater investigation ? of which the trial is a part ? involves President and Mrs. Clinton.
"He said the defendants in the current trial may have information that would be helpful in that probe, and indicated the independent counsel hopes to obtain the information."
?("Indeed, it is noteworthy that none of the several other reporters in attendance at Mr. Ewing's public commends...have reported anything even approximating Ms. Fritz's report of his purported statesments.") [Caption]
?(-Kenneth Starr, chief independent counsel in the Whitewater trial) [Photo & Caption]


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