Nov 1 1998

Clinton Worse Than Reagan, Nixon…Everyone

Clinton Worse Than Reagan “Clinton used his office to thwart an investigation sanctioned by his own attorney general…. Ronald Reagan waived all executive privilege…[and] turned over his documents and diaries…because he said he wanted the facts to come out.” —Time news article (8/24/98), conveniently forgetting the cover stories and document-shredding of Iran-Contra. Clinton Worse Than Nixon “Clinton’s behavior is truly Nixonian. And it is worse in one way. Nixon’s actions, however neurotic and criminal, were motivated by and connected to the exercise of presidential power. He knew the place he occupied, and he was determined not to give it up […]

Nov 1 1998

Feminists, Prostitutes and Nazis

Media Labeling in the Lewinsky Story

The mainstream media’s campaign to discredit feminist leaders has been a dominant and consistent element of 1998’s ongoing sex spectacle. Feminist politicians and organizational leaders have arguably been opinion leaders for many women voters who elected Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and who support social issues such as abortion rights and affirmative action. These leaders have been under attack, not only by right-wing partisans but by the press itself. The attacks have ranged from subtle but steady biases in coverage–omission of relevant facts from news reports, for example–to wholesale character assassination and name-calling. Media implicitly tell us how to rank […]

Oct 1 1998

Monica Mania

The New York Times sent Washington reporter Lizette Alvarez to Manchester, New Hampshire (9/4/98) to cover a series of campaign speeches by House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt (D.-Mo.). Early in the article, headlined “Gephardt Trumpets ’98 Agenda of His Party,” Alvarez noted that “the word ‘scandal’ or the name Monica Lewinsky did not drop from Gephardt’s lips once.” And she quoted Rep. Gephardt saying in his speech that “people want to talk about the issues because the issues are important in people’s lives.” So which issues did Alvarez discuss in her 700-word, 17-paragraph news article? None. Instead, the article analyzed […]

Mar 1 1998

In Hot Pursuit–or in Heat?

"Sex sells" has become a journalistic principle

MSNBC, the cable news channel, has a headline for its breathless, round-the-clock coverage of the Clinton sex scandal: “The President in Crisis.” A better headline might be: “The News Media in Heat.” In the media environment of 1998, when it comes to a sex-related scandal, many national news outlets can’t seem to avoid binge coverage. It’s possible that President Clinton has a sex addiction–but it’s clear that much of the mainstream news media do. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a bit off-target in blaming a right-wing conspiracy. If there’s a conspiracy driving the story, it’s a cabal that combines a ratings-hungry, […]

Apr 1 1997

A Conspiracy of Dunces

Right-Wing Distortion Goes Mainstream

It was a shocking story: The White House, driven to paranoia by unfriendly press coverage, was claiming to be the victim of a “conspiracy,” a “cabal of right-wing extremists” bent on Bill and Hillary’s destruction. It was straight out of The Caine Mutiny; one half-expected Mike McCurry to issue a statement accusing Bill Kristol of eating Air Force One’s strawberries. The only problem with the story was that it wasn’t true. The White House hadn’t accused anyone of being part of a conspiracy. In fact, the stories about White House paranoia were a perfect illustration of what the White House […]

Jan 1 1997

Dole’s Debt to the Press

Election Coverage Narrowed Clinton's Lead—and Helped the GOP Keep Congress

Why do you need media critics when you’ve got Bob Dole? In the final weeks of the campaign, as Dole groped for some theme that would prevent him from being buried under a Clinton landslide, the Republican candidate hit on his party’s favorite imaginary enemy: the “liberal” media. At campaign stop after campaign stop, Dole blamed his dismal poll numbers on the failure of the liberal media to tell the truth about the president’s character: In particular, he accused the New York Times of covering up allegations that Democratic National Committee fundraiser John Huang had unethically or illegally raised money […]

Nov 1 1996

The Nasty Book

The New York Times Objects to a Whitewater Skeptic

Phil Gailey was shocked by the thesis of the book he had been assigned to review: “To charge that reporters have got just about everything wrong is astounding,” he wrote in the New York Times Book Review (8/4/96). Gailey, a former New York Times reporter who now writes editorials for the St. Petersburg Times, was reviewing Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater, by Gene Lyons, a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “Fools for Scandal asks readers to believe that some of the nation’s most respected news organizations . . . are out to smear, if not destroy, the […]

Jul 22 1996

Does Media Coverage of President Clinton Reveal a Liberal Bias?

No: Most reporters represent the material interests of big business--not the liberal agenda

Bill Clinton (cc photo: Alan Light)

Before we can talk about the media’s attitude toward Bill Clinton, we need to understand what the media are. Nearly every major news outlet in the United States is owned by a large for-profit corporation—whether a media conglomerate like Time Warner or Disney or a diversified industrial giant like General Electric (which owns NBC) or Westinghouse (which owns CBS). The orientation of news corporations may not always be conservative—they probably don’t care much whether there are prayers in schools or gays in the military—but it certainly isn’t liberal. Big business strongly opposes redistribution of wealth to working Americans and resists […]