Monica Trumps Missiles Every Time
by L. Brent Bozell III
June 11, 1998
One of Washington's open secrets is that everyone, including
the 89-percent pro-Clinton news media, believes Bill Clinton is guilty of acts
of congress with Monica Lewinsky. That means he's also guilty of perjury, not
to mention lying through his teeth to the American people. That's why media
figures are fanning out to the evening chat shows to insist that presidential
perjury about sex doesn't matter. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift yammered on Fox
News Channel the other night that "I think if a married man commits
adultery, lying sort of goes with it, and committing perjury in a civil case
that's been thrown out of court, I think you'd have to look long and hard to
find anybody in this country who has suffered a penalty because of that."
Just in case anyone was in doubt about how comfortable
Eleanor was in her seventh legendary year in the tank for Bill Clinton, she
also announced: "Stonewalling happens to be good lawyering and I'm glad
the President and Monica Lewinsky have good lawyers."
All this leads to an interesting impasse for the press. Even
after disparaging Ken Starr's focus on what Dan Rather insists nightly is just
the President's "personal life," and all the chanting of the media
mantra that the American people just don't care, the networks continue to show
much more interest in Monicagate than the ongoing fundraising scandal. As
NBC's Claire Shipman explained in February, "Who's thinking about
Buddhist nuns when the issue is illicit sex in the White House?"
It borders on the ridiculous. Despite the bombshells about
Johnny Chung passing the Democrats money from the People's Liberation Army and
the Lenin-style rope salesmen at Loral, the Monica story has continued to take
the lion's share of network scandal coverage.
A new MediaWatch study finds that in the three weeks from
the New York Times' Chung scoop of May 15 through June 5, the networks offered
38 full stories (featuring reporters in the field) on Monicagate to only 15 on
the Chinagate angle, and almost half of those were on ABC. CBS, CNN, and NBC
lagged far behind. The tone was not always critical, or even objective. On May
21, ABC reporter Linda Douglass deflated the issue by underlining partisan
glee: "Republicans hope to make a big show of their hearings over the
summer, and lay the ground work for a scandal that they can talk about during
the fall election."
The morning shows have focused much more on Lewinsky, airing
40 full reports on Monicagate to only six on Chinagate. As with the evening
shows, ABC's "Good Morning America" aired the most on Chinagate. But
what is "most"? Just two full reports and two interviews in a
CBS and NBC were pathetic in the morning, with each airing
only one full report on Chinagate, both on Memorial Day, the morning after
Loral CEO Bernard Schwartz and other players appeared on the Sunday talk
shows. How's this for priorities: NBC's "Today" aired 20 segments on
Monicagate to its one Chinagate report.
I look back to 1987, when a day didn't go by without a news
report on this incredibly important scandal called Iran-Contra. Yet, as David
Frum noted in the Weekly Standard, selling missiles to Iran posed no strategic
danger to Americans, while helping the Chinese increase the accuracy of
missiles aimed at American cities certainly does. So why the disparity?
Let me venture several guesses. You can posit liberal bias,
that the media aren't going to report damaging information against Clinton
because in their liberal fog they don't see the story's importance. You could
also suggest a procedural bias: the Chinagate investigation is in its germinal
stages, and will be demeaned as a partisan probe, while Ken Starr's legal
express is hitting on nearly all cylinders in the courts and addressing
historical precedents in the use and abuse of presidential power. But the
biggest reason still has to be sex. Network bosses are catering to the
public's desire for intern love slave stories, a hunger missing when the
subject is nuclear proliferation and export-control policy.
Developments continue to tumble out of the newspapers, which
are still regularly ignored on the tube. In a June 4 front-page article,
Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz revealed "U.S. intelligence agencies
are tracking a Chinese ship carrying weapons materials and electronics
destined for Pakistan's major nuclear weapons laboratory." Clinton
administration actions may have increased the possibility of an Asian nuclear
war and of accurate Chinese missiles pointed at our urban centers, but network
newscasts are giving us "Hey, did you catch those Monica pictures in
Vanity Fair?" It's a sad truth, but we can't expect much seriousness from
the network news any more, which explains why millions are leaving television
and searching for news elsewhere. Where the networks are concerned, there's
just nothing there.
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