Big Media & The Slush Fund Mysteries
By Robert Parry
The biggest threat to Bill Clinton's Presidency now may be coming from
The New York Times and The Washington Post, more than
from Republicans in Congress, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr or the
The nation's two dominant newspapers -- and the scores of smaller news
outlets which follow the leaders -- seem to have accepted the "Clinton
scandals" as a constitutionally serious matter. The papers appear ready to
push this issue toward impeachment, in line with conservative strategies,
regardless of public opinion.
The Post underscored this institutional judgment by lavishing
nearly uncritical multi-page coverage on the newly released Paula Jones
case documents -- seven pages of coverage on March 14 and four more pages
on March 15, space usually reserved for historic or cataclysmic events.
Simultaneously, the Post virtually ignored new evidence that
raised fresh doubts about the anti-Clinton charges and the credibility of
Jones's principal witnesses.
The New York Times was slightly less generous in granting space to
the Jones court documents over the March 14-15 weekend, but joined the
Post in down-playing or ignoring the deepening credibility
problems of key anti-Clinton witnesses and evidence that a number of them
had been paid by Clinton enemies.
An example of the big papers' tilt was on display, four days earlier when
both the Post and Times gave short shrift to a statement
by conservative journalist David Brock, who admitted that a right-wing
vendetta had targeted Clinton for destruction and that money was being
exchanged for anti-Clinton testimony. On March 9, the former American
Spectator writer renounced his own ground-breaking work on the
scandals as unsound journalism.
"I conspired to damage you and your presidency," Brock wrote in an open
letter of apology to Clinton, whose election had angered Brock and other
conservatives because it ended 12 years of Republican control of the White
House. "I wanted to pop you right between the eyes."
At the heart of Brock's apology was his belated recognition that Arkansas
state troopers who had supplied salacious stories about Clinton's sex life
were either lying or exaggerating their accounts for money. One might have
expected Brock's recantation to be big news. But it wasn't at the Post
The Post dropped the Brock story from its national front section
altogether, relegating it to the gossipy Style section. There, an article
by media critic Howard Kurtz lampooned Brock's change of heart as insincere
and self-serving. According to Kurtz, Brock was going "the mea culpa route
in trying to shed his old image as right-wing hit man and position himself
as a respected mainstream writer. ... This approach has yielded a publicity
bonanza." [WP, March 10, 1998]
The New York Times was, if anything, even more dismissive of
Brock's apology. It gave Brock's admission a scant two paragraphs midway
through a round-up article, which focused on Senate Majority Leader Trent
Lott's demand that Clinton tell "the whole truth" about his relationship
with Monica Lewinsky. [NYT, March 10, 1998]
Brock had better luck explaining his views on television than he did in the
major newspapers. On the evening of March 10, Brock appeared on CNN's
Crossfire to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton was right to see a "vast
right-wing conspiracy" against her husband.
"There is a right-wing [apparatus] and I know what it is," Brock said.
"I've been there, I was part of it and, yes, they were trying to bring down
Bill Clinton by damaging him personally ... by any means necessary." Brock
admitted that right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife had helped finance
the Troopergate dirt-digging through the American Spectator
Brock added that "an ally" of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whom Brock would
not identify) and longtime Clinton enemy, Cliff Jackson, "brought me into
the process in the same way they brought in other reporters. ... They were
behind the management of the story."
Brock said he also had learned that the Arkansas state troopers were
"offered money" in exchange for their tales. The money and the clear
falsity of some of the troopers' claims caused Brock to back away from his
American Spectator story.
"I'm telling you that I don't know that that story was true and I don't
know that the pattern of behavior [Clinton's supposed philandering] that
was described in that piece actually happened. ... I don't believe that
what they said happened in the way it was described in that article."
The Falwell Money
A day later, on March 11, more details about the conservative payoffs to
anti-Clinton witnesses appeared in an investigative article written by
reporter Murray Waas and published in the Internet magazine,
Salon. Waas had obtained
the confidential accounting ledgers and other records from the Citizens for
Honest Government, which has worked closely with Rev. Jerry Falwell and
other Clinton enemies to promote the "Clinton scandals."
Waas reported that the group "covertly paid more than $200,000 to
individuals who made damaging allegations about President Clinton's
personal conduct." Some of these anti-Clinton allegations "were either
fabricated or grossly exaggerated [and] were part of a covert and
sophisticated political propaganda effort to influence public opinion
against President Clinton," Waas reported.
According to Waas's article, the paid witnesses supplied bogus evidence to
the Wall Street Journal, the American Spectator and other
publications. Many of the tainted witnesses also appeared in "The Clinton
Chronicles," a slick anti-Clinton propaganda video produced by the Citizens
for Honest Government in 1994 and hawked on Falwell's "Old Time Gospel
Hour." The video sold an estimated 150,000 copies and made millions of
Regarding the troopers' deals, Waas reported that Larry Nichols, the
Arkansas representative for the Citizens for Honest Government, signed a
contract with two troopers, Roger Perry and Larry Patterson, in March 1995.
The contract agreed to pay them to make statements challenging official
findings that White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster committed suicide
in Fort Marcy Park in Virginia on July 20, 1993.
As part of the Foster investigation, Perry and Patterson submitted
affidavits and gave testimony declaring that a White House aide, Helen
Dickey, called the Arkansas governor's office during the late afternoon of
July 20, 1993, to pass on word of Foster's death. She supposedly said that
Foster had died in the White House parking lot.
But the Dickey phone call would have come hours before the White House
officially learned of Foster's death. Fort Marcy Park is also across the
Potomac River and a half dozen miles away from the White House.
Clinton enemies cited the troopers' testimony as evidence disproving
official reports which concluded that Foster had died at Fort Marcy Park
from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The dark suspicion was that Clinton
somehow had a hand in eliminating Foster.
The troopers' story collapsed, however, when Dickey testified that she had
not learned about Foster's death until after senior White House officials
were notified at about 10 p.m. that evening. Dickey said she called her
father and then Little Rock to notify Foster's friends. White House phone
records supported Dickey's timing.
As part of another exhaustive review of Foster's death, special prosecutor
Starr concluded that Dickey was telling the truth and that the troopers
weren't. Starr also reaffirmed the earlier findings that Foster indeed had
killed himself at Fort Marcy Park. Waas wrote that he discovered the
existence of the troopers' video contract when Perry complained that
Nichols never delivered the promised money.
The Mena Money
Right-wing money also sloshed around other anti-Clinton allegations,
including those connecting Gov. Clinton to drug smuggling at a small
airport near Mena, Ark., in the mid-1980s. Those allegations were featured
in "The Clinton Chronicles" as well as in anti-Clinton articles by the
Wall Street Journal and the American Spectator.
The Journal articles reportedly caught the attention of House
Speaker Gingrich who authorized a Mena investigation by the
Republican-controlled House Banking Committee. After an expensive two-year
probe, however, the committee finally acknowledged that it uncovered no
evidence connecting Clinton to any wrongdoing at Mena.
In his investigation, Waas found that money from the Citizens for Honest
Government was present in the Mena allegations, too. According to the
group's accounting records, former Saline County, Ark., deputy sheriff
John Brown received more than $28,000 in 1994 and 1995. Brown wrote about
the Clinton-Mena allegations for the Wall Street Journal and
appeared in a Citizens-produced video on the Mena allegations.
In an interview with Waas, Patrick Matrisciana, president of Citizens for
Honest Government, acknowledged the payments to anti-Clinton witnesses. But
Matrisciana insisted that "we did not pay people to tell lies. ... We paid
people so that they would no longer have to be afraid to tell the truth."
Deception, however, appears to have been a big part of the package. Not
only have GOP-run investigations failed to corroborate the central
suspicions raised by "The Clinton Chronicles" and other anti-Clinton
videos, but Falwell and Matrisciana apparently engaged in a
false-advertising scam to help sell their products.
During one infomercial, Falwell interviewed a silhouetted individual whom
he identified only as an "investigative reporter," according to Waas's
"Could you please tell me and the American people why you think that your
life and the lives of others on this video are in danger?" Falwell asked
the mystery man.
"Jerry, two weeks ago, we had an interview with a man who was an insider,"
the silhouetted man replied. "His plane crashed and he was killed an hour
before the interview. You may say this is just a coincidence, but there was
another fellow that we were also going to interview, and he was killed in a
plane crash. Jerry, are these coincidences? I don't think so."
In the interview with Waas, however, Matrisciana admitted that he was the
silhouetted man. "Obviously, I'm not an investigative reporter,"
Matrisciana said, "and I doubt our lives were actually in any real danger.
That was Jerry's idea to do that. ... He thought that would be dramatic."
In another article in Salon, Waas and co-writer Jonathan Broder
disclosed that David Hale, the key witness against President Clinton in the
Whitewater affair, also received clandestine payments from Clinton's
political enemies. This article quoted two eyewitnesses in Arkansas
describing numerous cash deliveries to Hale between 1994 and 1996, after
Hale became a cooperating federal witness for special prosecutor Kenneth
Hale's payments came from representatives of the so-called Arkansas
Project, a $2.4 million campaign to investigate Clinton. The project was
financed by right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and the money was
funnelled through the American Spectator to attorney Stephen
Boynton, according to the article. "A portion of the funds went to Parker
Dozhier, a 56-year-old sportsman and fur trapper who then made the cash
payments to Hale, according to Caryn Mann, Dohzier's former live-in
girlfriend, and her 17-year-old son, Joshua Rand," the article stated.
Big Media Black Hole
Despite the eyewitness and documentary evidence of paid witnesses, Waas's
stories had even less bounce than Brock's apology. Waas's stories received
no mention in The Washington Post, The New York Times or
most other major national media outlets.
On March 13, however, when Paula Jones's lawyers released 700 pages of
documents, the major media reversed field, treating the event as a news
story of extraordinary importance. The depositions and other documents
contained little new, effectively reprising the well-known sex allegations
against Clinton. But that didn't matter.
Amid the media frenzy that followed, the troopers were back front and
center as reputable stand-up guys. There was almost no journalistic
skepticism about their credibility problems or those of other key sources.
In another case, the Post and the Times recounted, again,
the claim of one witness, Kathleen Willey, a 51-year-old former White House
volunteer. In her deposition, Willey claimed that Clinton groped her and
placed her hand on his crotch during a Nov. 29, 1993, meeting in the Oval
But the Post and Times glossed over Willey's credibility
problems. Willey did not go public with her story until 1997, at a time
when she was facing severe financial problems and her friend, Linda Tripp,
was planning to write a tell-all-fast-money book about the Clinton White
Initially another friend, Julie Steele, corroborated Willey's claim that
Willey had talked about the Clinton incident right after it happened in
1993. But Steele later admitted that Willey had persuaded her to lie.
Steele submitted a sworn affidavit that Willey had not mentioned the
Clinton story until 1997 when Willey was trying to manufacture
corroboration for her story.
Nevertheless, the Post and the Times treated Willey's
account with great respect, an acceptance that caught on with other news
organizations. Willey granted CBS "60 Minutes" an exclusive interview and
the popular news magazine show aired it in prime time on March 15.
Though the CBS broadcast added nothing new, the Post led its front
page the next morning with the fact that Willey had appeared on
"60 Minutes." The Times also fronted Willey's TV debut, but did
include a sidebar on page A22 by Jill Abramson that noted some
inconsistencies about Willey's story. The sidebar disclosed a closer
relationship between Willey and Tripp. It turned out that the pair had
teamed up in 1994 in a bid to convince incoming White House counsel Lloyd
Cutler to let them manage his transition, a proposal he rejected out of
[Tripp later gained famed by secretly tape-recording phone conversations
with Monica Lewinsky about her alleged sexual relationship with Clinton. In
the days after Willey's TV appearance, it was disclosed that Willey, too,
was pursuing a book deal for a reported $300,000 advance.]
The 'Liberal' Label
There appear to be two primary explanations for why the Post,
Times and other major media have been so eager to trumpet the
anti-Clinton charges. First, the "scandals" have been profitable, boosting
ratings and newsstand sales. But a second motive could be even stronger:
the major media outlets appear determined to "prove" they are not
"liberal" -- the long-standing Republican charge against them dating back
to the Vietnam War, Watergate and President Nixon's resignation.
Ironically, David Brock, in his earlier incarnation as a right-wing "hit
man," might have explained the media's expected reversal of roles best. On
Feb. 12, 1994, Brock addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference
in Washington and declared:
"The trooper story and the growing scandals surrounding Whitewater and
the death of Vincent Foster as well, I think, violate an unspoken rule of
the elite liberal media in this town since Watergate -- that is, only
Republican presidents can be hounded out of office by ethics scandals. And
I think in the coming months, we are going to show that that rule is quite
Though Clinton has been cheered by his high opinion polls, he might heed
Brock's four-year-old warning. With the Washington press corps out to shed
the "liberal" label, the drumbeat of anti-Clinton allegations thumping
through TV, the newsmagazines and the daily newspapers will likely pull
down the president's poll numbers.
Then, Bill Clinton could face a very different political reality. ~
(c) Copyright 1998 -- Please Do Not Re-Post
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