FOR REALISM AND DIVERSITY IN LIBERAL JOURNALISM AND AT THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Times and Mrs. Clinton: A Chronology of Significant Events
January 26: In response to allegations of marital infidelity by Jennifer Flowers, Bill and Hillary Clinton appear on the television news program 60 Minutes. Similar allegations had caused the political demise of Gary Hart in 1988. Mrs. Clinton is mostly quiet during the interview, but she does assert a “zone of privacy” for her husband. “I think it’s real dangerous in this country if we don’t have some zone of privacy for everybody,” she says.
In “Leers, Smears and Governor Clinton,” a New York Times editorial on January 28, 1992, the Times says “For lack of satisfactory evidence, most journalists declined to publish stories about Mr. Clinton’s personal life. Then Gennifer Flowers, a former state employee, paid by a supermarket tabloid, contended she had a longstanding affair with the Governor. She rehearsed the accusations yesterday on television.” The piece points out that Mr. Clinton said: “Anybody who’s listening gets the drift of it, and let’s get on and get back to the real problems of this country,” and further says “Hillary Clinton added sensibly, ‘If that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.’” The editorial continues: “(Candidates do not) have to open themselves to questions like ‘Have you ever had an affair?’ merely because they offer themselves for public service. There’s a line, albeit rough and constantly redefining itself, between idle curiosity and responsible attention. The Clintons appear to have found it.”
March 8: A New York Times article breaks the Whitewater story. The 1800-word article is headlined “The 1992 Campaign: Personal Finances; Clintons Joined S.& L. Operator In an Ozark Real-Estate Venture.” The editorial page on March 12 says “The public would be well served if the Governor and his wife gave a fuller explanation of a decade of McDougal dealings. The Clintons, meanwhile, would be well served by displaying a clearer appreciation of conflict-of-interest precepts.”
March 17: The Illinois Primary. Mr. Clinton wins, and clinches the nomination. That night, in Chicago, Mrs. Clinton says “we believe passionately in this country and we cannot stand by for one more year and watch what is happening to it.” In an editorial on March 18, headlined “Mr. Clinton Tightens the Vise,” the Times says:
“Even as voters trooped to the polls yesterday, Bill Clinton’s critics continued to hammer at his character and raise sharp questions about his ability to win a general election. When the day was done, however, the voters of Michigan and Illinois had invited a different question: How much longer can Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown survive as credible candidates?”
The piece also insinuates the class warfare and race cards:
“Mr. Clinton continued to score impressively among both blacks and blue-collar whites, suggesting a capacity to transcend racial division and build coalitions.”
And later on it says:
“Until last week … the campaign and especially the television debates had been largely devoted to spirited discussion of serious issues. But on Sunday, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Brown began behaving like brawling schoolboys.
The drop in the civility level was mostly Mr. Brown’s doing. The man once known as Governor Moonbeam turned into Mr. Meanbeam. He charged, without much evidence, that Governor Clinton had funneled state business to his wife’s law firm. Mr. Clinton rose angrily to her defense, and next day gloated over his verbal knockout.”
November 3: Mr. Clinton is elected with 43% of the popular vote, to 38% for George Bush and 19% for Ross Perot. A Times editorial on November 5, headlined “Ten Reasons to Feel Good,” plays nicely to the polarization tactic: “Governor Clinton promises to become President Unifier, a consummately welcome outcome for all Americans who have been made to feel excluded.” It goes on to speak satisfyingly about Clinton and Gore as “men who know politics, like politics and are, demonstrably, good at politics.”
January 20: Mr. Clinton is sworn in for his first term as President. A Times editorial on January 21, 1993, headlined “A Dawn of Promise,” says: “In word and symbol, this was an inauguration that said America can no longer assault its children and its helpless poor with the twin barrels of ideology and indifference. The President’s clear-eyed social prescription felt like a soothing balm after the bootstrap exhortations of the Reagan years and the myopic theorizing about private charity that passed for social policy under President Bush.”
January 25: Hillary Clinton is named to run Clinton’s health care reform task force, which the White House says will cost taxpayers $100,000. A Times editorial headlined “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Job” on January 27 leads with “It’s official. Hillary Rodham Clinton will not bake cookies, keep to the East Wing or stand quietly by her man. No, she will stand with her man, or maybe ahead of him, in formulating health care policy.” In the job, the piece says, “Hillary Clinton can be truer to her own person.”
May 19: White House fires, and asks the FBI to investigate, seven career Travel Office employees and hires Clinton’s cousin, Catherine Cornelius. In an editorial on May 22, headlined “White House Follies; The Gang That Can’t Fire Straight,” the Times writes “Bill Clinton’s staff must be giving the man serious heartburn. This week, his minions managed to turn an administrative shake-up into a public relations fiasco that left the White House looking inept, callous and self-serving.”
July 20: Vince Foster dies.
March 7: The Washington Times, in an article headlined “Rose Staffers Say Hillary Ordered Papers Shredded; Boxes Hauled from Mansion After Whitewater Report,” reports that three current or former Rose Law Firm attorneys “were summoned” to the Arkansas governor’s mansion during the 1992 campaign by Hillary Rodham Clinton, “who personally handed over records to be shredded at the firm’s downtown office.” The shredding began after the March 8, 1992 New York Times article on the Clintons’ involvement in Whitewater and it continued through the November election.
March 14: Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell announces his resignation. A Times editorial, headlined “Mr. Hubbell’s Necessary Departure” on March 16, 1994, begins with: “Webster Hubbell’s decision to leave Washington to deal with a nest of angry hornets at his old Little Rock law firm is good for the Justice Department, good for the public and probably good for his very dear friends and principal patrons, President and Mrs. Clinton.” The piece concludes with “Although the Clintons’ comforting circle of Little Rock cronies grows smaller by the day, Mr. Hubbell had no choice but to leave. His departure gives the President’s critics one less target to shoot at.”
March 18: The press questions Hillary Clinton’s $100,000 profit in cattle futures. The Times does an editorial on Whitewater and Mrs. Clinton’s commodities trading, headlined “Arkansas Secrets,” on March 31, 1994. The editorial kicks off with: “The effort to keep a lid on the Clintons’ personal and financial histories has led to the development of a distinctive Clinton style — to withhold critical information and to respond furiously with attacks on the motives of critics. It is a viable campaign practice. But the clumsy efforts to silence Congressional critics and the possible White House interference with Federal agencies demonstrate that it is a dangerous way to govern.”
April 22: Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a White House press conference to answer questions about Whitewater and her commodities trading. “Mrs. Clinton Steps Forward,” an editorial on April 24, 1994, begins: “As political theater, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s news conference Friday afternoon was undeniably a smash hit. She serenely answered an hour’s worth of aggressive questions on her complex adventures in the commodities and Arkansas real estate markets. She was also forthrightly remorseful about her earlier resistance to the press and to the appointment of a special counsel.” The piece kicks off with: “The First Lady’s willingness to open herself to questions is welcome but her performance, however deft, leaves plenty of troubling issues for the special prosecutor and Congress to explore.”
January 4: Hillary Clinton’s legally binding written responses to questions posed by Congress are contradicted when the White House releases 1993 memo by former White House Administrator David Watkins in which he says Hillary was “insistent” he fire the White House Travel Office employees. A Times editorial on January 8, 1996 is headlined “Whitewater Returns.” It says that “It also seems that whenever the White House pronounces the (Whitewater) story dead, something else pops up to challenge the First Couple’s credibility. The latest example involves Hillary Clinton and the “Travelgate” affair. This has nothing to do with Whitewater but everything to do with honesty.”
January 26: Hillary Clinton testifies for one hour before the Whitewater grand jury on whether there has been obstruction of justice involving the First lady and the Rose Law firm. The New York Times does not editorially comment on the event.
October 23: The Justice Department releases photographs showing convicted Miami drug dealer Jorge Cabrera posing with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Gore at a Florida fund-raising dinner the previous December. Cabrera was invited to the White House in 1995 after sending a $20,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee. Coming late in the campaign season, the Times tries to bury the story. “Politics: The Contributors; Democrats Return Trafficker’s $20,000 Gift” runs on October 24, and is located on page 10 of section B.
November 5: Mr. Clinton wins reelection over Bob Dole to a second term with a popular vote of 45,628,667. The Times in an editorial the next day headlined “The Challenge of Victory” kicks off with “Mr. Clinton’s career has yet to reach its final definition. That is the central fact of this first morning after. As he zoomed around the country in the last two weeks, Mr. Clinton made it clear he wants to make a bid for history. His original vision — blending fiscal discipline with traditional Democratic social concern — can earn him a big page. But to get it, he must reassure the nation about his character and Congress about the need for a new era of concern on the enduring problems of poverty, education and health.”
January 20: Mr. Clinton begins his second term.
February 16: The Washington Post reports that six months after Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Guam in September 1995 residents of the commonwealth donated nearly $900,000 to the Democratic national Committee. The Washington Post story is titled “Signs of Policy Shift on Status of Guam Appeared After Contributions to Democrats.” The White House denied that a subsequent change in Guam’s immigration policy was connected in any way. The New York Times covers the story on February 17 with “Panel Chairman Says Inquiry Into Fund Raising Is Expanding.” The piece, which is just 875 words, cites White House aide Lanny Davis matter-of-factly as saying “there was “not a shred of evidence” that any contributor had ever influenced Mr. Clinton’s “judgment on what’s in the best interests of the American people.” It further quotes Mr. Davis: “If any of these wrongdoings occurred, then President Clinton would not stand for it. If people violated the law, if people sold access to the White House, that cannot be tolerated. It just strikes me as rather odd that when we’re focusing on the excesses in the system, we’re only talking about the Democratic Party, not the fact that this is endemic in the system.”
February 25:The overnight guest list released by the Clinton Administration acknowledges that the President personally encouraged rewarding DNC donors with overnight stays at the Lincoln Bedroom. On February 26, on page 1, the Times runs “Courting Donors: The Overview; Clinton Pressed Plan to Reward Donors.” The 1800-word story begins: “President Clinton two years ago personally approved a plan under which the Democratic Party rewarded some top donors and fund-raisers with meals, coffees, golf outings and morning jogs with him and with overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom, to “energize” them for the coming Presidential campaign.” A New York Times editorial, headlined “The File on President Clinton ” and appearing on February 27, says “Having turned the White House residential quarters into a Democratic contributors’ playground and sleepover camp, President Clinton now tells us that the Lincoln Bedroom was not for sale and no one was actually promised anything in return for money. That may be so, but the image of guests racing in and out of White House bedrooms like something out of a Feydeau farce makes it clearer than ever that Mr. Clinton was presiding over an operation that was out of control and demeaning to the government.” The piece further says “With Mr. Clinton’s direct involvement in these activities all but unmistakable, Attorney General Janet Reno has no excuse not to ask for the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Democratic fund-raising in the last election.”
January 26: Standing alongside First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Mr. Clinton wags his finger at news cameras and declares: “But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time — never. These allegations are false.”
January 27: First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on NBC’s Today Show firmly denies allegations that her husband had an affair with Ms. Lewinsky. Mrs. Clinton blames the sex allegations on a “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” The first lady says “I do believe that this is a battle”. Mrs. Clinton went on:
“Look at the very people who are involved in this. They have popped up in other settings. The great story here for anybody willing to find it, write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
“Bill and I have been accused of everything, including murder, by some of the very same people who are behind these allegations. So from my perspective, this is part of a continuing political campaign against my husband.”
A Times editorial on February 1, 1998 headlined “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” said that “Her lumping of all Presidential critics into a right-wing conspiracy is, of course, demagogic, even allowing for book-packagers and other unwholesome hangers-on around Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp and Paula Jones. The historic arc of this Presidency has been of people starting out as supporters on issues like health care and free trade and then gradually becoming disenchanted. It is not enlistment in a cabal that turns them but rather revulsion at one or another serial embarrassment having to do with fugitive contributors or the bartering of White House invitations or financial windfalls for disgraced courtiers or, in this case, allegations of mysteriously un-Presidential associations.”
February 11: Mrs. Clinton says she thought the allegations “will slowly dissipate over time under the weight of its own insubstantiality.” She says her husband was bearing up well under the barrage of allegations, but said she was concerned about White House staff members who were “amassing legal bills for no good reason at all” because of the investigation.
March 15: Former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey says Mr. Clinton lied when he denied under oath that he sexually groped her during a private encounter in the White House in 1993. In an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Willey said she and Clinton were in his private study off the Oval Office when Clinton embraced her tightly, kissed her on the mouth and fondled her breasts.
2000 (for more on The Times and Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign Click Here)
January 4: The Clintons move into a house at 15 Old House Lane, Chappaqua, New York.
February 6: Mrs. Clinton kicks off her campaign for the US Senate. A Times editorial headlined “Mrs. Clinton’s Launch” runs on February 7 and says “(Mrs. Clinton’s speech and other events of the previous day) was a smooth beginning in a carefully controlled political environment. The real test for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy will be whether she can extend the professionalism of the kickoff rally into other aspects of the campaign by fully elaborating her issues and becoming more available to the press and the public.”
July 14: The Matt Drudge website reveals that an upcoming book accuses Hillary Rodham Clinton of using an anti-Semitic slur. The Times reports on the story only four days after it breaks, and it relegates it to section B. An editorial on July 18 headlined “Mrs. Clinton’s Credible Response” says “we think she made a convincing case that she did not use the language ascribed to her.”
September 20: Robert Ray issues the final report on Whitewater. Front page play in the Times tailored the event to minimize damage to Mrs. Clinton: “Whitewater Inquiry Ends; A Lack of Evidence is Cited in Case Involving Clintons” runs on September 21. A Times editorial, headlined “The Whitewater Verdict” also on September 21, says “In a brief and businesslike statement, the independent counsel Robert Ray said yesterday that the six-year investigation into Whitewater had produced ‘insufficient’ evidence to justify criminal charges against President and Hillary Rodham Clinton. But while the statement came as a great relief to the White House, Mr. Ray’s terse legal judgment does not excuse the White House’s long record of obfuscation in the Whitewater matter, including its clumsy meddling with official inquiries and its failure to produce relevant records in a timely manner.”
October 18: Robert Ray issues the final report on “Travelgate.” On October 20, in an editorial headlined “A Verdict on Travelgate,” the Times says “The independent counsel Robert Ray has concluded that Hillary Rodham Clinton was ‘factually false’ in sworn testimony about her role in the firing of seven members of the White House travel staff in 1993. At the same time he has concluded that he cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that her statements were ‘knowingly false,’ and therefore will not pursue criminal charges against her. Judging from the voluminous public record, Mr. Ray’s decision to drop the case is legally sound. Judging from the same record, his characterization of Mrs. Clinton’s account of her role in the matter also seems on the mark.”
October 22: To absolutely nobody’s surprise, The New York Times endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Senate. The piece images Mrs. Clinton as the candidate of compassion: “She…communicates an unfeigned empathy for the struggles of poor families, schoolchildren and professionals in health care, education and social-service fields.” Of Mrs. Clinton’s questionable activities, the piece describes them in euphemism, and brushes away worries about future abuses by explaining that she is capable of “growing beyond” her past.