The Rise of the 'Clinton Haters'
The following article appeared in Investor's Business Daily on May 15th, 1998
By Tim Graham
If the news media really cared about keeping up an appearance of objectivity - or even reporting in a moderate tone -they wouldn't use the term ''Clinton haters.''
The term is so presumptuous and emotional that it's better suited for a Sunday- morning talk show round table, not an ''objective'' news story. But journalists use it often.
And they haven't taken the easy way out by putting ''Clinton haters'' in quotes, or attributing the term to other people. Instead, they've put the full weight of their professionalism behind the certainty that Bill Clinton's foes are haters - often without asking the ''haters'' if the charge is true.
To quantify how often reporters used ''hater'' to describe the president's opponents, the Media Research Center searched the Nexis database from '92 forward to find all mentions of ''Clinton hater,'' as well as the variants ''Clinton basher'' and ''anti-Clinton,'' in Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and The Washington Post. We then compared that to use of the terms ''Reagan hater,'' ''Reagan basher'' and ''anti-Reagan'' in those same publications from '81 to '88.
The results were astonishing: 63 uses of ''Clinton hater,'' compared with one ''Reagan hater''; 106 references to ''Clinton bashers'' or ''Clinton-bashing,'' compared with 17 references to ''Reagan bashers'' or ''Reagan-bashing''; and 55 mentions of ''anti-Clinton'' efforts compared with just two mentions of an ''anti-Reagan'' movement.
By itself, ''anti-Clinton'' seems an inoffensive term. In several '92 stories, reporters refer to George Bush and Ross Perot splitting the ''anti-Clinton vote.'' But Time regularly applied modifiers such as ''fiercely,'' ''virulent,'' ''obsessive'' or ''right-wing'' to the term.
A story in the April 13, 1998, issue of Time referred to ''Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti- Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported.''
Scaife was the most popular target for the ''hater'' label. Time identified him in a headline as ''King of the Clinton Haters.'' An earlier Time article called Scaife a ''super-Clinton hater.''
And in the April 27 issue of Newsweek, reporter Mark Hosenball wrote: ''The evidence linking Starr to conservative Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon Scaife. . . . Scaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions trying to undermine the president.'' But Scaife doesn't give interviews to the national media. How would they know he hates the president?
With this imbalance of alleged hatred in mind, we also checked these variants for Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken Starr - ''Starr hater,'' ''Starr basher'' or ''anti-Starr'' - since his appointment in '94. Time, U.S. News & World Report and The New York Times have never applied these terms to Starr's critics. Newsweek made one mention of Hillary Clinton as a ''veteran Starr-basher.'' The Washington Post carried two mentions of ''Starr-bashing.'' But no one - not even James Carville - was branded a ''Starr hater.''
This journalistic type-casting began with the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit in '94, and intensified again with the arrival of Monicagate in January. Time led the hate-labeling pack, with 28 designations of ''Clinton hater,'' almost half of them in just the last four months.
The origins of this amateur psychoanalysis go back to an April '94 story in Time, titled ''Clintonophobia! Just Who Are These Clinton Haters, and Why Do They Loathe Bill and Hillary Clinton With Such Passion?'' Reporter Nina Burleigh didn't seem to care whether her mind reading was accurate. After tagging conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and activist Floyd Brown as ''haters,'' Burleigh casually added: ''Both profess not to hate Clinton.'' She then referred to ''Clinton haters'' twice more.
''Reagan hater'' appeared only once, in '87, when Newsweek media writer Jonathan Alter explained that Sam Donaldson's dual role as an ABC reporter and commentator ''exposes him to critics who label him a Reagan-hater. . . . In truth, his politics don't interfere with his reportage.'' Politics creates passions that inflame the whole range of emotions - joy and sadness, inspiration and disillusionment, love and hate. Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, fuels all of these. But reporters show their bias when they suggest, subtly or unsubtly, that only one president has been subjected to unrelenting attack by a group of obsessed ''haters.''
(C) Copyright 1998 Investors Business Daily, Inc.
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