Gingrich Vindicated? Not in
One item today:
Secret Service agents testifying
before a congressional committee on Wednesday (July 17) disclosed that 21
White House staffers used drugs, even crack. Sound familiar? In December
1994 Newt Gingrich was condemned for suggesting the White House had an
illegal drug problem. But Wednesday night the networks failed to note the
vindication of Gingrich or apologize for repudiating him.
Below you'll read:
1) How Gingrich's
charge was received by the media in 1994 with quotes from CBS and NBC's
2) Which network
failed to report the drug revelations Wednesday night and which reporter
actually tied the drug news to the FBI file scandal.
>> The background.
Appearing on Meet the Press on December 4, 1994 incoming House Speaker
Newt Gingrich asserted: "I had a senior law enforcement official tell
me, that in his judgment, up to a quarter of the White House staff had
used drugs in the last four or five years."
media reaction: The media reacted with condemnation instead of
investigation, putting the burden on Gingrich to defend his charge, not on
the White House to answer it.
after the Meet the Press interview, on the December 5 CBS Evening News,
Dan Rather announced:
"President Clinton's chief of staff today tried to fight off the
latest attack by House Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is again
accusing the President and those around him as being way outside the
American mainstream, not what normal Americans are. This time, Gingrich
charges White House staffers have histories of drug abuse. He gave no
names or specifics." Reporter Rita Braver concluded the subsequent
story: "As for what this means about future cooperation between
Gingrich and the White House, Panetta today said, 'This is not the way to
do business if you're serious about solving the nation's problems.' Rita
Braver, CBS News, at the White House."
CNBC show that night (December 5) Tim Russert asked his guest, Michael
Kelly of the New Yorker, a series of questions that put the burden on
Gingrich for daring to raise the issue. Instead of suggesting that the
media might actually investigate to find out the truth, Russert raised
Gingrich's drug charge and then asked:
"Is that reckless, is that calculated?" Russert's next question:
"How aggressive should the press be in saying 'what is your
And: "Do you at least demand from the accuser more information, more
This Morning on December 6 Harry Smith demanded of Dick Armey: "But
if you're going to make these kinds of accusations, in the words of the
White House, 'false, reckless smears,' should you not be able to stand up
and name names?"
1996 Reality Check: A year and a half later Congressman Bill Clinger's
House committee brings in some Secret Service agents to testify about
White House security procedures. NBC Nightly News put the revelations at
the top of the newscast. Lisa Myers reported July 17: "The latest
allegations came not from Republicans, but from non-partisan Secret
Service agents responsible for protecting the President. The agents
testified that the Clinton White House overruled their concerns and
insisted on giving security passes to employees who admitted using illegal
drugs, even crack, some within the last year."
Evening News and CNN also aired stories, but not ABC's World News Tonight,
though World News Tonight and Good Morning America in 1994 aired White
House condemnations of Gingrich's charge. CBS, CNN and NBC failed to show
how Wednesday's news contradicted Panetta's 1994 statement or vindicated
bright side, unlike the CBS and CNN stories, Myers tied the drug
revelation into the FBI file scandal, concluding her Wednesday piece:
"Today's testimony raises even more questions about why the White
House improperly obtained those FBI files on hundreds of Republicans. The
White House explanation, that it was worried about security, seems at odds
with its attitude toward staff with a history of serious drug use."
reporters in 1994 had been a bit more interested in learning the truth and
a bit less interested in repudiating Gingrich, the public wouldn't have
had to wait 18 months for Bill Clinger to do the media's job.
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