18. NPR secures President Clinton interview as Troopergate breaks, but instead of asking if he abused his office, they ask Clinton why the troopers would be disloyal to him (1993).
On December 20, 1993, The Los Angeles Times and The American Spectator broke the story that Arkansas state troopers said then-Gov. Bill Clinton had used them to secure sexual liaisons with women, NPR treated it much differently than Nina Totenberg’s charges against Clarence Thomas. With a Democrat in the hot seat, caution and dismay took over.
On the December 21 All Things Considered, NPR’s Mara Liasson relayed Hillary Clinton calling them “trash for cash.” and “outrageous, terrible stories and attacks on her family.” Anchor Linda Wertheimer asked “What do we know about these troopers? I mean, how believable, how unbelievable are they?” Liasson underlined they were out for money and revenge: “They both acknowledge that they’re interested in writing a book about their story and getting money for it. They’re also represented by Cliff Jackson....one of the president’s bitterest enemies.”
The next night, Liasson and Wertheimer interviewed President Clinton. Instead of asking him if the allegations were true, Wertheimer asked why the troopers would be so disloyal: “We know these men have been aided and advised by people who are political enemies of yours, but we also know that these men worked very closely with you for a long period of time. Why do you think they’re doing this?” Clinton denied he’d abused his office and said “I just don’t think I should say any more about it.” Wertheimer then asked why he made calls to old trooper buddies to keep tabs on the tattlers: “I wonder why you did that?” He declined to answer: “I just don’t want to – don’t want to do anything to prolong this.”
Neither did NPR. Wertheimer changed the subject to how Clinton was at “58 percent in the polls” and had an “up-and-down” first year. “Is this just the nature of trying to govern in the ‘90s or do you think it’s something about you that causes it to happen?” She grew even softer, telling Clinton his election was “a personal milestone for many people of my age,” and she was up in the middle of the night thinking “I wonder if President Clinton wakes up at three o’clock in the morning sometimes and thinks ‘I am the president’?”
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