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Jewish World Review March 11, 1999 /23 Adar 5759

MUGGER with John Strausbaugh

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Who is Dorothy Rabinowitz?

( ON FEB. 19, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE by editorial page writer Dorothy Rabinowitz on Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations that Bill Clinton had raped her in a Little Rock hotel in 1978. It was the first serious coverage the story received in the mainstream media. A front page article in The Washington Post followed the next day; Lisa Myers’ NBC News interview with Broaddrick, originally scheduled to have run on Jan. 29, aired Feb. 24. Response from other media has been largely dismissive, questioning Broaddrick’s (and The Wall Street Journal’s) motives, pointing out that Broaddrick’s allegations are beyond verifying or prosecuting, and often making special note that Rabinowitz’s story came from the Journal’s editorial division, which has been harshly critical of Clinton, rather than the separate news division.

PRIOR TO THIS, Rabinowitz was probably best known for her outstanding work putting the media spotlight on the scandalous wave of bogus child sex-abuse and Satanic cult allegations at daycare centers and nursery schools around the country from the mid-1980s into the 90s. Rabinowitz’s reporting, and the defense funds she raised through the Journal, have been key factors in proving the innocence of several victims of these hysterical witch trials, including Margaret Kelly Michaels in New Jersey, the Doggetts in Washington state, Grant Snowden in Florida and Violet and Cheryl Amirault in Massachusetts (Gerald Amirault remains in prison to this day).

Rabinowitz met with us at NYPress’ offices last Friday, March 5.

Smith: First, a little background. Do you mind us asking—

Not at all.

Smith: —how old you are?

Yes! (laughter) You know, I used to cheerfully and happily say, "No, certainly not!" What have we come to here? Only our enemies use these things against us. What next?

Strausbaugh: How long have you been at the Journal?

Almost 10 years.

Strausbaugh: And before that?

And before that I spent a couple of years working for the New York Post. I had this syndicated column. I wrote about the media. Until Rupert sold it. I spent about four years. Then I went to television—WWOR-TV—the blackest period of my life. Everybody should do it, because then you know how terrible it is. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do. Before all of that, I scratched out a living, a very precarious one. Commentary, doing these freelance things. I wrote two books and thought it was a nice life. I didn’t realize that underneath it all I was desperately anxious for money and "What if you don’t get this assignment?" You know. One day [Wall Street Journal editor] Bob Bartley called me up and said, "How would you like to come work for us?" And I actually said, "Can I tell you tomorrow?" (laughter)

Smith: Where did you grow up?

In Queens. In what is now a deadly place, but it was then a wonderful Italian-American neighborhood: Corona. We had this little pocket of Jews and this huge Italian-American population. Just a wonderful place to grow up.

Smith: Okay, I’m going to start with the media coverage of the Broaddrick story—what I thought was the dismissive treatment in the mainstream press of the story. How did you feel being identified in the buried New York Times story as, in quotes, "a columnist" at The Wall Street Journal?

I noticed that. But I have to say, I was not surprised. I was not.

Smith: It was so inaccurate.

It was inaccurate. One becomes used to this sort of slighting and evasion because, after all, if they name my name, they have to take away the implicit insult upon the page. You know, everybody says, "It was the Wall Street Journal editorial page," no one even mentioned my name. That nincompoop Timothy Noah [Slate journalist], that pompous, out-of-work twit, he kept talking about "the Wall Street Journal editorial page" on C-SPAN. He went over and over it again. But of course if you talk about me, it’s a different matter. Everybody says, "Oh, her."

Bubba and Broaddrick in happier times
Strausbaugh: Whose idea was it for you to interview Broaddrick?

I sure didn’t want to go down there. Bob Bartley really wanted me to go down there—and I didn’t want to go. I didn’t think she’d talk to me. But it worked out.

Strausbaugh: Why did he send you?

He didn’t tell me [to go]. He just said, "You are the person to do this." And I said, "No, no, Micah Morrison [editorial writer]," who writes all of this other stuff. Micah wanted to go. He’s going down to Susan McDougal’s trial. I got a clear message back saying, "No, you are the person to do this." I suspect it had to do with those child abuse trials and his sense that I would be the person who could deal with this. And possibly because it was a woman. Although Micah’s exceedingly gentle with people. I went down because it was a media story—that’s the way I planned it, and that’s what worked...

One of the reasons I got the Broaddrick interview... She was exceedingly resistant. I can’t tell you how little this woman wanted to talk to the press. And I came away from her house—she let me in because she’s a very kind woman and she knew we had had this long drive. What happened was that Drudge outed me on the Internet and said, "She’s down there." And that produced this outpouring on the Internet of people who said, "Oh, she’s the one who got all of these people out of jail." All of a sudden it became a highly personal thing. And Mrs. Broaddrick read that, so I was not [just] a name from the media of Down East, but a person who did all of these things.

Smith: Why do you think no one in the press mentions your past work?

Well, because they were not going to dignify this story. First of all, look who’s talking. You had all of this limitless pomposity oozing out of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. You know, with this "The media’s pushing another before it’s ready..." So you’re not going to say this [writer] is a person who has done all of these—any of these things. It had to be "the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, the well-known conservative..." etc. It’s easy. That’s what they did.

Smith: But even a reporter like [Washington Post media reporter] Howard Kurtz didn’t mention your past work.

I have to say that when I did appear on Reliable Sources I was very well treated—on all of these television shows. Clarence Page did make his little speech about, "Well, we did have this problem that it appeared in the Wall Street Journal editorial page," but he did say "Dorothy Rabinowitz has a wonderful track record." I was utterly taken aback at that. And also, David Gergen did that and on the air.

Smith: Let’s go back to Timothy Noah. He’s been harping on you. He makes clear that he used to work for The Wall Street Journal, and he talks about the "cringing embarrassment" of the news side versus the editorial side. He faults you on a number of points, but especially on the woman— The witness.

Smith: Norma Kelsey [who says she was with Broaddrick the day of the alleged assault and saw the physical evidence]. And about Clinton commuting the life sentence on the killer of Kelsey’s father, giving her a reason to want to get back at him.

Yeah, well, it’s just nonsense. First, go back to the "cringing embarrassment." This is simply not true... If you talk to the general run of people on the news side, including the head of the paper [Peter Kann, publisher], including everybody—glowing with tributes... I cannot tell you how much support I get personally from the news side, every time I write something. And in this case, too.

So, Noah is either a conscious liar, or as always, the doctrinaire halfwits are driven by their own kind of information. He is also, as I’ve discovered, a puffball. I called up in the middle of C-SPAN as he was carrying on in his little way, and he immediately e-mailed me and said, "I told them to put you on."... He’s not a person one thinks about very seriously. He wasn’t at the Journal at the time, and he was not distinguished, and you read his—what shall I call it—his labored efforts at humor, and there we are.

Now, as to the question he raises [about Kelsey]—this was a matter that Mrs. Broaddrick herself raised. So I called up [Kelsey], I had two long talks with her, and I knew immediately that this was nonsense. Smith: It was nonsense that...?

That this was the impulse. You had to have conceived of a large conspiracy involving Mrs. Broaddrick... But [the idea that] all of these women—not just the two [Kelsey] sisters but the other woman—there were four who were her witnesses—had contrived over the years to get Clinton on this rape charge? It violated everything I knew, especially once I talked to [Broaddrick], who had absolutely everything to lose. Her husband [David] was a particularly—"upset" is not the word for it—about her coming forward with this. But I saw her sitting there. And you can hear the flow in her voice.

N E X T_ P A G E .|. Why have the liberal pundits become critical of The Lip-Biter?

©1999, Russ Smith