Nov
01
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 […]

Nov
01
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 […]

Oct
01
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
01
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
01
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
01
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
01
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 […]

Sep
01
1995

Hast Seen the Whitewater Whale?

The Journal's Quest for Conspiracy

"Above all it is about hypocrisy," the Wall Street Journal editorial page explained (3/21/94) in one of its dozens of commentaries on the Whitewater scandal. Robert Bartley and his conservative editorial crew meant the "hypocrisy" of President Clinton who denounced the 1980s as "a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness" while himself trying to get a piece of the action. Without doubt, the Journal is right that Bill and Hillary Clinton deserve a margin calls' worth of grief for profiting--or even trying to profit--from their political connections and insider commodities advice. But Bartley and his writers are living in a […]