“The Unrelenting Hostility Of Washington’s Courtier Press”: The Media’s Crusade Of Scandals Against Hillary Clinton
It’s always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she’d do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult. Michelle Goldberg does an excellent job defining the problem in a Slate article about why so many people say they hate her.
“There’s a reason actors do screen tests,” Goldberg writes. “Not everyone’s charm translates to film and video. For as long as Hillary Clinton has been in public life, people who’ve met in her person have marveled at how much more likable she is in the flesh than she is on television.”
As a friendly acquaintance since 1980, I’d second that. My wife, who worked with her on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, will hear nothing against her. We recently read a Facebook posting from a friend in Eureka Springs. Neither a big-shot nor a political activist, Crescent was profoundly touched that after her husband died in a bicycle crash, one of her first callers was New York’s newly-elected Senator. Hillary had left Arkansas for good, but not its people.
But no, her personal warmth doesn’t always come across on TV. She’s anything but a natural actress. However, like most pundits, Goldberg glosses over the issue that’s plagued Hillary since Bill Clinton’s first term: the unrelenting hostility of Washington’s courtier press.
People say they don’t trust the media, and then they credit the imaginary scandals this cohort has peddled for 25 years. The exact causes of Clinton-hatred among the press clique remain obscure. Was it Bill Clinton’s humble Arkansas origins? Humbling the Bush family? Failing to pay homage to society hostess Sally Quinn? Nobody knows.
Todd S. Purdum has recently offered a classic in the genre: a compulsively disingenuous Politico piece entitled “Why Can’t Hillary Stop Fudging the Truth?” It begins by describing a “brief, but revelatory” exchange between Clinton and Charlie Rose.
Asked about her damn emails, Hillary tried to broaden Rose’s focus.
“Well, I would hope that you like many others would also look at what he said when he testified before Congress,” she said, “because when he did, he clarified much of what he had said in his press conference.”
If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know that when Comey testified, he was forced to walk back his assertion that the FBI found three (out of 30,000) documents marked “classified” among her emails.
Were they properly marked? Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) asked.
“No,” Comey answered.
So wouldn’t the absence of such markings “tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified?”
“That would be a reasonable inference,” Comey said.
In other words, contrary to the FBI director’s grandstanding press conference and a million Republicans chanting “Hillary lied,” there were zero documents marked classified on her server. Not one.
So was Comey dissembling during his press conference? Or had he made an honest error? Pundits like Purdum know better than to ask. He never acknowledged Comey’s walk back. No, the real issue was Hillary’s “sloppiness,” and her forgetting Comey used that exact word.
“The pattern is unmistakable,” Purdum scolded, “from the Whitewater inquiry (when she resisted disclosing documents about a failed Arkansas land deal)…to the Rose Law Firm billing records (which infamously and mysteriously turned up in the White House residence after she’d said they were missing) to the Monica Lewinsky affair and the State Department emails themselves.”
A more misleading paragraph would be hard to imagine. In fact, the Clintons voluntarily delivered Whitewater documents to the independent counsel, but not to New York Times reporters whose inept, downright deceptive reporting created the bogus “scandal.”
If there had to be an investigation, they wanted a real one.
Also no, but the famous billing records didn’t turn up in the White House residence, “mysteriously” or otherwise. An aide found them in a box under her desk in the Old Executive Office Building, where she’d misplaced them. (They were Xerox copies, incidentally. Hence no motive for hiding them existed.)
Once found, of course, they vindicated Hillary’s sworn testimony. See Joe Conason’s and my book “The Hunting of the President” for details.
As to the “Monica Lewinsky affair,” is there anybody in America that doesn’t know Bill Clinton played slap and tickle with a young thing at the office and lied about it?
How is that his wife’s fault?
Anyone who’s followed Hillary Clinton’s political career has seen this happen time and again. Ballyhooed charges of wrongdoing and/or perjury that collapse in the light of evidence, only to have newly imagined allegations follow almost at once.
Can you say Benghazi?
Some years ago, I got to ask the late televangelist Jerry Falwell on camera which of the Ten Commandments was the worse sin, adultery or false witness? Falwell had peddled the “Clinton Chronicles,” hysterical videos charging the president with drug smuggling and murder.
To his credit, Falwell said they were equally bad.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 27, 2016
You read it here first: “Fearless prediction,” this column began last April 6: “No legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton…no Kenneth Starr-style ‘independent’ prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her ‘damn emails,’ no how, no way.
“Ain’t gonna happen…
“Those impassioned Trump supporters holding ‘Hillary for Prison’ signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven’t laid a glove on her yet.”
If they wanted to prevent Hillary from taking the oath of office next January, I wrote, voters were “going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.”
As of this writing, that’s not looking too likely either. Minutes before the news broke that FBI Director James B. Comey announced that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges against Secretary Clinton, I’d made an observation to a Republican friend on Facebook regarding his expressed wish to see her jailed.
“As a personal matter,” I wrote, “you wouldn’t trust Trump to walk your dog.” After Comey’s announcement, he groused that Hillary had friends in high places, but didn’t dispute my characterization of Trump. Although we disagree politically, I’d trust my friend with anything requiring honesty and steadfastness—dog-walking, cow-feeding, anything at all.
I see Trump, I keep my hand on my wallet. Seen that bizarre interview on Lives of the Rich and Famous where Trump speculates about the eventual size of his infant daughter’s breasts?
No? Then read on USA Today about the thousands of contractors—carpenters, plumbers, electricians–Trump’s stiffed on construction jobs. You do the work, he doesn’t pay. Even his own lawyers sometimes.
The man’s been sued 3500 times. Think he gives a damn about you?
So anyway, last week saw the collapse of not one, but two ballyhooed Hillary Clinton investigations. Even after two years, $7 million and 800-odd pages, Rep. Trey Gowdy’s celebrated Benghazi committee—the eighth of its kind—failed to come up with hurtful new evidence against Secretary Clinton in the tragic events in Libya on September 11, 2012.
But then that wasn’t necessarily the point.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee,” GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted last September. “What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.”
So the committee folds its cards, Bill Clinton does his happy Labrador retriever act on Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s airplane, and The Washington Post says we’re nevertheless back to Square One: “Can Hillary Clinton Overcome Her Trust Problem?” reporter Anne Gearan asks.
Clinton herself acknowledges that voters don’t see her as Miss Congeniality. She says she’s working hard to overcome that impression, but acknowledges it’s an uphill struggle.
“You know, you hear 25 years’ worth of wild accusations, anyone could start to wonder…Political opponents and conspiracy theorists have accused me of every crime in the book. None of it’s true, never has been, but it also never goes away,” Clinton told the Post.
“And it certainly is true that I’ve made mistakes. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t,” Clinton continued. “So I understand that people have questions.”
Indeed many of those “questions” about Hillary’s dishonesty originated in acts of journalistic malpractice so crude that their authors would have been shamed out of the profession—if the profession had any shame at the Washington pundit level.
Back in December 1995, ABC’s Nightline broadcast a doctored video clip that made Hillary appear to be lying about representing a Whitewater savings and loan. In reality, she’d explained her role as billing attorney on the account. No wonder “the White House was so worried about what was in Vince Foster’s office when he killed himself,” Jeff Greenfield observed, an insinuation as ugly as it was false.
Her imminent indictment was widely predicted.
A few months later, financial journalist James B. Stewart appeared on the same program, promoting his farcically inaccurate book “Blood Sport.” (He’d failed to read the Treasury Department’s “Pillsbury Report” and taken soon-to-be-convicted Jim McDougal’s word for everything.) Stewart gravely produced a loan application he alleged that Hillary had falsified, a federal crime, he said.
Joe Conason noticed something at the bottom of the page: “(BOTH SIDES OF THIS DOCUMENT MUST BE COMPLETED.)” Sure enough, Stewart had neglected to examine page two of a two page application.
Oops, hold the handcuffs and the orange jumpsuit.
If you think Stewart’s career suffered, you must not read the New York Times or the New Yorker.
Anyway, nothing’s really changed. Paradoxically, the collapse of one ballyhooed Clinton “scandal” after another appears to have hurt her. Few follow the details. But people suspect that she must be especially cunning and slippery to keep getting away with it, the bitch.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 5, 2016
“Scandalous Matters That Are Real”: If He Shouts ‘Rape’, Donald Trump Should Unseal His Divorce Records
Evidently Donald Trump believes that his campaign can accomplish with an Internet video what Kenneth Starr failed to do with $50 million and a platoon of private detectives and FBI agents: Bring down Bill and Hillary Clinton by dredging through moldy muck. Somehow he doesn’t seem to understand his own vulnerability on scandalous matters that are real rather than invented.
The problem Ken Starr confronted during six years as independent counsel was neither a shortage of resources nor a lack of support from the political media, most of which seemed as eager to ruin Clinton as the right-wing Republican prosecutor. No, the trouble with Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate — so dubbed by scandal-addled reporters — was that substantive, plausible evidence of wrongdoing simply didn’t exist. The Lewinsky affair was all too real, but most Americans didn’t believe that sex, or even lying about sex under oath, merited a costly, hypocritical, and rabid investigation, let alone a presidential impeachment.
Aside from Lewinsky, the “Clinton scandals” each ended the same way: Despite all the blaring headlines, ranting editorials, grand jury dramatics, and talk-radio thunder, Starr never prosecuted the President and First Lady because he couldn’t sustain an indictment. The Clintons fully deserved the presumption of innocence that the press, the prosecutors, and the Republicans in Congress refused to afford them.
The hollowness of all those old pseudo-scandals is why the Clintons are still standing — even as ace sex detective Starr is ousted from the presidency of Baylor University in disgrace for covering up sexual assault by members of the school’s football team.
Yet Trump, under the tutelage of Nixon-era dirty trickster Roger Stone, apparently believes that he can resuscitate even the most discredited old tales to smear the Clintons – and especially Hillary, the Democrat he is likely to face in November.
It is typically insolent for Trump – the most dubious character ever to win a presidential nomination in this country – to bring up the failed Whitewater real estate venture. The Clintons lost money on that deal, ripped off by a huckster named James McDougal whose grandiose style of double-dealing was just a small-time, Southern-fried version of a Trump scam. Will the casino mogul still be talking about Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster when he goes to court to defend the con game known as “Trump University”?
Actually, both Trump and Stone know that Whitewater is too arcane. So this sordid pair quickly turned to Starr’s sex files, with a misogynist twist: The sexual accusations against Bill Clinton should be blamed on Hillary. They’re confident that if they shriek “rapist” and “enabler” loudly enough, nobody will realize that their attack has no factual basis.
Only Juanita Broaddrick and Bill Clinton know what, if anything, ever happened between them, and their accounts are directly contradictory – except that Broaddrick has offered at least two versions, under oath, that contradict each other. It is important to recall that Starr immunized Broaddrick and thoroughly investigated her revived rape accusation against Clinton during his impeachment probe in 1998. He found the evidence that she provided “inconclusive,” and didn’t include her case in his impeachment brief. (There are other reasons to wonder whether Broaddrick told the truth that are explored in The Hunting of the President by Gene Lyons and me. Our free e-book,The Hunting Of Hillary, is available here.)
Naturally, Trump is promoting Broaddrick’s additional claim that Hillary Clinton, only weeks after the alleged rape by her husband, sought to intimidate the Arkansas nursing home owner into remaining silent. But as with all of the sensational charges lodged by Broaddrick over the years, it isn’t easy to know what to believe about her charge against Hillary – because, again, she has also said, and may even have sworn, precisely the opposite.
Nearly a year after she testified before the independent counsel, Broaddrick was interviewed on NBC News Dateline by correspondent Lisa Myers. After tearfully describing her alleged encounter with a violent Clinton, she tried to explain why she had denied being raped for almost 20 years and – in a moment that Trump has made relevant again – stated firmly that nobody had ever tried to intimidate her.
From the Dateline transcript of February 24, 1999:
Lisa Myers: Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?
Juanita Broaddrick: No.
Myers: This has been strictly your choice.
Did Broaddrick ever tell Starr or his investigators about Hillary’s alleged intimidation of her? Having received a grant of immunity against prosecution for perjury, did she tell them that Hillary – also a target of Starr’s broad-ranging investigation – had feloniously tried to “silence” her? Or did she tell the Office of Independent Counsel — as she later told Myers on NBC — that nobody had ever done so?
The next reporter to interview her might want to ask those questions.
Meanwhile, perhaps the moment has come when Donald Trump, blustering rape accuser, should respond to the rape accusations lodged against him by his estranged first wife Ivana – in a sworn deposition — during their bitter 1990 divorce, which a New York court eventually granted her on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment” by Trump. Journalist Harry Hurt III first recounted the ugly details of Trump’s allegedly very violent assault on Ivana –which involved ripping out her patches of her hair as well as sexually violating her – in his book The Last Tycoon.
Although Ivana sought to withdraw her accusation after the Daily Beast reported it last year, Hurt told me there is much more to be learned from the Trump divorce papers, which are under seal. So here is a suggestion for Trump, who still refuses to release his tax returns as American presidential candidates have done routinely for decades.
If he wants to accuse other people of rape and intimidation, Trump should unseal his divorce papers and let voters assess his standing to make those charges. The evidence gathered about Bill Clinton by the independent counsel’s sex probe is public record. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should let the public view the evidence of what he did to his first wife – and then they can judge him accordingly. If he doesn’t have the guts to disclose those scathing documents, then maybe he should shut up about the Clintons’ marriage, which endures.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 27, 2016
Alas, this is pretty much where I came in. Starting in 1994, when your humble, obedient servant was approached to contribute weekly political columns, I found the behavior of the national political press shocking and alarming.
Today, it’s even worse.
Even so, it’s not every day a TV talker apologizes for broadcasting a doctored video misrepresenting something Bill Clinton said about President Obama. So it’s definitely worth taking note.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes did that the other night, at least temporarily persuading me that the network hasn’t yet gone full Fox News.
But first, some ancient history on a theme directly relevant to today’s Democratic primary campaign: Hillary the Big Liar.
See, by 1994 I’d been writing professionally for years, mainly as a literary journalist and monthly magazine reporter. The publications I’d written for employed assiduous fact-checkers. Opinions were expected, so long as they were grounded in fact. After all, what’s the point winning an argument if you’ve got to cheat to do it?
However, that’s not how Washington journalism works. One incident in particular astonished me.
In April 1994, Hillary Clinton had given a press conference about the make-believe Whitewater scandal. She answered every question the press threw at her for a couple of hours. The immediate effect was rather like last fall’s Benghazi hearings: her detailed answers calmed the storm. Having previously given sworn testimony to Treasury Department investigators probing Jim McDougal’s failed S & L, she was on solid ground.
Two years further on, ABC’s Nightline dug up a video clip of an answer she’d given about a specific issue and seamlessly deleted two sentences by substituting stock footage of journalists taking notes. Then they pretended she’d been asked a much broader question, and accused her of lying about the information they’d subtracted.
Specifically, Hillary acknowledged signing a letter “because I was what we called the billing attorney” for the Madison Guaranty account. Nightline charged her with concealing exactly that fact. Jeff Greenfield said no wonder “the White House was so worried about what was in Vince Foster’s office when he killed himself”—a contemptible insinuation.
Within days, the doctored quote was all over ABC News, CNN, the New York Times and everywhere else. Almost needless to say, Maureen Dowd ran with it. William Safire predicted her imminent criminal indictment.
In short, the theme of Hillary Clinton as epic liar began with an instance of barefaced journalistic fraud.
Everybody involved should have been run out of the profession. It wasn’t exactly an obscure mystery. Video of the press conference existed. The New York Times had printed the full transcript.
But there was no Internet. Beltway pundits covered for each other like crooked cops.
So anyway, last week Bill Clinton made a campaign appearance for his wife in Memphis. If you’d only seen it on MSNBC or read about it in the Washington Post, you’d think he made a political blunder, trashing President Obama as a weak leader.
On Chris Hayes’ program All In, the host chided the former President for going “a bit off message.”
MSNBC aired this video clip:
“BILL CLINTON: She’s always making something good happen. She’s the best change maker I’ve ever known. A lot of people say, ‘Oh well, you don’t understand. It’s different now. It’s rigged.’ Yeah, it’s rigged—because you don’t have a president who is a change maker.”
Ouch! To the Washington Post’s Abby Phillips, “it sounded like he was agreeing with one of [Bernie] Sanders’s central arguments about income inequality—but blaming the sitting president for it.”
Older and thinner, Mr. Yesterday was clearly losing it.
Except he wasn’t. The real villain was, once again, creative video editing. Tommy Christopher at Mediaite.com restored the full context.
So here’s what Bill Clinton actually said about President Obama:
“Yeah, it’s rigged—because you don’t have a president who is a change maker with a Congress who will work with him. But the president has done a better job than he has gotten credit for. And don’t you forget it!
Don’t you forget it! Don’t you forget it!
Don’t you forget it. Let me just tell you. I’ve been there, and we shared the same gift. We only had a Democratic Congress for two years. And then we lost it. There’s some of the loudest voices in our party say—it’s unbelievable—say, ‘Well the only reason we had it for two years is that President Obama wasn’t liberal enough!’ Is there one soul in this crowd that believes that?”
Judging by the crowd response, there was not.
Mediaite.com’s Christopher put it succinctly: “This is an edit so egregious, it rivals the worst in dishonest political ads, and surpasses them.”
Greatly to his credit (and my surprise), Chris Hayes subsequently rebroadcast Clinton’s remarks in full. “We shouldn’t have done that,” he admitted.
No, they certainly should not.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 17, 2016
Picasso would love Hillary Clinton, with her constantly changing Cubist angles. Painting the 68-year-old — from Illinois, New York, Washington or Arkansas, take your pick — would never grow old. Even the master might have a hard time capturing her character and pinning it down.
As fickle, fateful Iowa caucuses come Monday, presidential candidates have been sized up like livestock at the state fair. None more than Clinton. She took all tough questions thrown at her at the town hall with verve.
It’s abundantly clear that she’s got game, playing to win in a state where she lost to freshman Senator Barack Obama, whose words touched the stars in 2008.
The first black president made multitudes rejoice, but his record of advancing the social status of blacks is thin, reactive, lukewarm at best. Ending solitary confinement for juveniles took seven years.
His singing graced the mourning of a tragic race-related murder in South Carolina, but I mean Martin Luther King Jr.-level advancements, like rights, jobs, wages, education, laws and opportunity.
Will Clinton do better by women? Sure hope so. She believes in progress by laws, she said.
Beholding the cusp of the first woman American president, I encounter vastly conflicting views of Clinton every 24 hours. They are like snowflakes in your eyes in a storm, for she means many different things.
Take two Midwestern girls. Mackenzie and Jordynn, African-American sisters, ages 6 and 4. “My girls now want to be president because of her,” their mother Jencelyn King-Witzel told me.
Girls can’t vote, but they can dream. Mothers are taking daughters on the Clinton campaign trail so they will remember this moment in history.
A 5-year-old in my family was asked if she wanted to campaign for Clinton in another state. She went upstairs and packed her suitcase.
On the other end of the spectrum, take brilliant memoirist Susan Groag Bell, the late women’s historian whose 90th birthday would have been this week. Born to elegance in Central Europe, Susan and her mother escaped the Nazis, but her father was deported to a concentration camp.
Susan was educated in England, from age 12, by the kindness shown to war refugees. She studied at Stanford University and lived in California, where she picked up her pen to write and teach pathbreaking studies of European women’s lives, including Christine de Pisan, a medieval French poet. Susan lived until 2015, but would have dearly wished to witness a woman president.
The Washington Post conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker, just took a more jaded view of Clinton, her fellow baby boomer: “Or, is it that she is reflexively prone to dissemble?”
Journalists are a skeptical lot, and have pursued Clinton’s husband hard for an unseemly affair that was a private sin, not a constitutional crime. Some seem unwilling to forgive her for his betrayal.
Parker revived an infamous line by William Safire, the late op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 1996, Safire labeled the first lady “a congenital liar” as the Whitewater investigation raged against the Clintons, which, by the way, led like a snake to the sex scandal. How convenient. His enemies thought President Clinton was the Titanic, but he was the iceberg.
And Hillary Clinton is the shipwreck survivor. Another Cubist view.
A senior military man feels open to supporting Clinton, but fears her private email record, with careless handling of secret material as secretary of state, may lead to an indictment for her or her top aides.
A pragmatic read is that nothing will soon get done on the domestic policy front, with Congress wrangling, but Clinton is the best-prepared candidate to handle foreign policy.
Yes, she mended fences around the world as Obama’s star Cabinet player. Then again, she voted for the Iraq War; the lady is a hawk. It took Clinton a decade to admit that major mistake as senator. She has her pride, a character flaw. You can see it now, how hard it is to say sorry. Strong women are like that.
If you believe in something cosmic stirring, the morning after the snowstorm in Washington, Jan. 26, only two women senators were on the floor, with only women there to start morning business. “As we convene this morning, you look around the chamber, the presiding officer is female. All of our parliamentarians are female. Our floor managers are female. All of our pages are female,” said Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
That first in history felt “genuinely fabulous.”
By: Jamie Stiehm, , Featured Post, The National Memo, January 29, 2016