Saturday, October 10, 2009
Time for the media to fess up
Journalists like Evan Thomas now admit the Clinton scandals were bogus. When will they admit they played along?
By Joe Conason
Oct. 9, 2009
"Better late than never" isn't always true, but public candor from people and institutions that have misled us for many years can be refreshing -- and sometimes even liberating.
Prodded by recent events -- including publication of "The Clinton Tapes," historian Taylor Branch's fascinating account of his contemporaneous private conversations with President Bill Clinton; the unwholesome reappearance of healthcare reform nemesis Betsy McCaughey; and perhaps even the death of retired New York Times Op-Ed columnist William Safire -- certain media myth-makers of the Clinton era have suddenly uttered startling acknowledgments and even a grudging confession or two.
At this late date, it is scarcely radical to suggest that Whitewater and all the other "scandals" deployed by the Washington press corps to besiege the Clinton White House (before the Lewinsky affair) were without substance. In the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which created and promoted those stories, even such media mandarins as Thomas Friedman and Evan Thomas now casually assure us that they were overblown, even "bogus." And former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan today admits that the famous takedown of the Clinton healthcare reforms he published in 1994, Betsy McCaughey's "No Exit," was essentially a fake too.
Belated as those affirmations are, by more than a decade, they may still matter -- if only because they arrive at a time when the mainstream media is just beginning to descend into some of the same bad habits that plagued us during the last Democratic presidency and the far right is already talking impeachment...