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Jewish World Review /Feb. 12, 1999 /26 Shevat 5759


Mugger The Man Who
Owns the World

Matt Drudge, the cyberspace pioneer who's spooked the mainstream press, e-mailed me last Thursday and asked if he could join the list of "Hall-of-Famers" who've been interviewed here at New York Press' dumpy offices. With editor John Strausbaugh and associate editor Andrey Slivka sitting in, munching on miserable carryout lunch, I was glad to oblige. As usual, Drudge got in the first word.


(D)rudge: I wanted to see your place. I didn't necessarily want to subject myself to this nightmare here. Let me get you involved in some litigation. Let's take it all the way to the White House! You need some litigation to get you on the map. Got me on the map!

(M)UGGER: I'm too depressed to talk about the White House.

(D): Oh, I'm not. I need Clinton to stay in. I need this son of a b**** to stay in and keep my hits up.

(M): I think Gore will do just fine for your hits.

(D): Yeah, the one's he's not hitting himself.

(M): What about the David Schippers sex item you had on your site? That wasnít reported anywhere else.

(D): What are you talking about? Geraldo was blue in the face last night.

(M): Well, I donít watch Geraldo.

(D): Well, itís a million viewers. No, that Schippers thing was wild, and the pictures theyíve [the National Enquirer] got! All these tabloids, itís the battle of the pictures. And they had one hell of a picture with Schippers there with the two women over his shoulder. My question is, why does the National Enquirer feel heís such a superstar? I think theyíre not even worried about sales. Something else has taken over here.

(M): Well, the National Enquirer, thatís Kendallís bailiwick.

He doesnít vet the Clinton stuff but I wonder if he vets the GOP stuff? So, that was a hell of a scoop. The tabloids are freaked out that Iím getting their stories before theyíre published. I was at this Bar Association meeting last light where I was on a panel, and some lawyers for the Star kept saying, "How did you get our DNA trace?" I said it was so pathetic; I even knew that they were down in Graceland while they were waiting for the DNA test.

(M): Who are your sources?

No comment. I donít want to give my sources over to this White House. And Iíll defy the judge that orders me to do so. Iíve seen what this White House has done to these people.

(M): The Times editorial page is awful, right in the tank with Clinton.

(D): Well, Lewinskyís not been kind to anybody. Itís polarized everybody. Bill Maher is no longer funny. Maureen Dowd is no longer cute. It has absolutely polarized everybody... Itís made people who used to be funny not funny and people who used to be cute not cute. Itís representative of a whole generational schism and I think itís exposed a lot of the problems we have in this country. Ticking time bomb.

(M): What do you mean? What problems are those?

(D): Well, the battle between people who want to zip up their pants and who want to unzip their pants and who think itís a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I think MTV has led the charge for free sex: As long as you wear some rubber on you and vote for Democrats, youíre cool. But, thatís not necessarily the essence of being cool.

But Bill Maher is the classic example of someone who should just retire. The guy is not funny. Lewinsky has made him ugly and mean and stupid and hate-filled. And I love going on his show. All you have to do is look at him and you see that itís a date with hell. This guy is going nowhere but down.

(M): What about Dick Morris? Youíve had a lot of fun with him. That was a great show last week with Morris and Nat Hentoff.

Well, wait till you see the thing we did last night at this Bar Association [event]. He was all over the place praising me. I donít know... When I think of Dick Morris I think of someone who is struggling with confidences that were told to him and a conscience thatís telling him I know about wrongdoing but I canít tell. Itís conflicting. And itíll be interesting to see how that comes out. I would love to hypnotize Dick Morris and put him under and get the full truth. Iíd like to do that with any of these former Clinton advisers. Because somethingís not right in that White House and we have yet to really get the true story. I maintain this Clinton/Lewinsky thing has been a massive coverup. Why none of these people were indicted, I donít know.

(M): Whatís happened to Michael Isikoff? Heís been quiet.

(D): Oh, well, heís going to have the bombshell book. Isikoff owns the spring. When his book comes out I think the stories heís going to tell, all of them in the first person I understand, are going to be fantastic. I think the question immediately at Newsweek is why didnít he put this junk into the copy? We are the ones, after all, paying him.

(M): The same question could be posed to Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post.

(D): Exactly. Kurtz, I think, left all the good stuff for his book [Spin Cycle] because this stuff throughout the beginning of this story and also throughout the Clinton í96 campaign was dry. As a matter of fact, Kurtz was writing these weird stories called "Dullsville" about how Washington was so boring and so sleepy and how nothing is happening. It was this great "Style" section piece: "Dullsville." Meanwhile, behind the scenes the President of the United States was scr****g an intern and his wife, I believe, was approving of it. It was a freak show. It was a modern hippie freak show and the fact is that Howard Kurtz was an idiot going to sleep as that was happening. How far is The Washington Post from the White House? A block and a half. Okay, maybe Kurtz needs to move to the other side of the country to get some news.

I happen to like Kurtz and he's done some serious s**it to me. He's the one who's brainwashed the entire Washington press corps to think I'm a gossipmonger. When it's this guy who's the gossipmonger. I didn't report that Clinton was lusting after the mummy and Mike McCurry behind the scenes was laughing. I didn't report this sh**. He reported this sh**.

His trashing of me in May of 1996 made me. They had a full "Style" section profile. Gossipmonger this. Gossipmonger that. It made me. He called the other day, said, We're going to do another profile on you. A big one. I said "Goody." I want it. Just get all your adjectives out and bring your toilet paper or whatever else you need to bring. Because I'm ready for this. There's a whole dynamic where you don't get famous or successful in this nation right now unless you're trashed. Whether it be from a Limbaugh to a Clinton to a Drudge. It's the trashing that elevates you.

(M): What do you think is finally going to happen with Lisa Myersí Juanita Broaddrick story?

(D): Well, this will be in NYPress next week? I suspect it still wonít have aired. Because I would bet my money that NBC, if theyíre ever going to air it, are going to wait until after the impeachment. These jerks who are trying to manipulate coverage. I wish they had the courtesy during Anita Hill to cover her after the Clarence Thomas hearings.

But of course, they didnít. I have a problem with Broaddrick because why isnít she giving another interview or holding a press conference. Why is Lisa Myers her honey? Iíd tell Lisa Myers to go to hell quickly if she sat on my interview that was exposing a rapist. So, thereíre a lot of problems with that angle. I think itís exposed once again that corporate media isnít necessarily the way to get news. They feel they have the right to censor and edit. They would say to be objective and to be courteous and to make sure that bad reporting doesnít get out there.

I say thatís hooey. Rick Kaplan said, How many hours and days and how many witnesses in the Tailgate thing? The poison gas? Ninety sources? I donít want any of those sources. So the fact that NBC would air the allegations last year during the height of the Paula Jones case days after it was thrown out and now theyíve got the woman on tape confirming Myersí story, they donít air it because it has to do with Clintonís darkest hour. I do believe it would sway senators if a woman gets on national television saying, "He raped me." Why would that not affect people like Barbara Boxer, or maybe I give her too much credit.

I donít want to confuse this issue with Bob Packwood. This Broaddrick woman, something is not right here because why not go to someone else? Maybe there is no one else to go to who would air it. I donít know.

But the pressure thatís come across these women has just been outrageous and for any liberal to support this guy after what theyíve done to these women, not just one or two, but five, six, seven, eight, nine women... I think Jane Does could line up like the Rockettes at Radio City and do a stage show. Itís now becoming sociopathic beyond any definition that is in the dictionary. What can I say? I support the underdog.

(M): Didn't you drop the Free Republic people from your site for a while?

I dropped them because they were doing racist stuff over the [Clinton love child] and it hit me, one night I was there, I think it was the first night of the story, maybe it was the second night of the DNA chase, I click on and I see this headline, "Nigger Baby." And I said, I don't think I can link to that at this point. Because a lot of new readers were coming in. The DNA chase had hit Fleet Street big time and they were saying, Go check Drudge out. And why am I linking to that? Because they all think it's me.

So the problem is a lot of people don't quite understand the Web yet. They think MUGGER works for me. They think Army Archerd works for me just because I have a link. They don't realize that that link is taking them to Variety or wherever. They think that it's Drudge who's hired these opinions. So I was getting mail, why are you linking to this site that's doing all this racial stuff, and it hit me, oh nuts. It was undermining my credibility on a story that was already too explosive. So I pulled back.

I've reinstated them since, but the freedom of the press is difficult in the Wild West of this Internet stuff, which I'm all for because I've thrived on it, but I do have the power to delink if things get out of control. Free Republic may not want to censor what people are saying on their site, that's their choice, but I do have the power to delink them, as I do with any of my highlights.

(M): Why did Steve Brill put you on the cover of his magazine?

(D): I was not happy with that piece. This idiot trying to gauge my accuracy as heís writing checks to the Clinton-Gore reelection... He was using inaccuracies to point out my inaccuracies and I donít get into the mud pit with people like that. Theyíre playing a silly game for Brill to report simple things that were clearly exclusives as not exclusive. Thatís dirty pool, so I canceled the subscription I never had.

(M): Whatís going to happen to the cable shows when this is over? Do you think Chris Matthews will have to shrink back to a half hour?

(D): I think Matthews was shown to be vulnerable with those John McLaughlin numbers.

(M): Thatís a three-week deal.

(D): Yeah, but it shows you heís vulnerable. I think they all proceed. I think Matthews is a damn good television face. I donít know about five hours a week, and Geraldo goes wherever the action is, so heíll move right on: Itís back to JonBenet. Heíll be out there with the blowdried hair in Boulder or wherever, screaming, This is outrageous. I remember his town hall meeting with the JonBenet [people] was great. So he goes wherever the action is and he throws himself in it. Heís had a great career with that. I would assume heíll go right wherever it is. If gold is found in the hills of Oklahoma, heíll be out there claiming itís just the miracle of miracles...

I think itís not even worth discussing because in the next year or two thereís going to be such mayhem in this country and millennium craziness, everything is going to take care of itself. The mountain of issues is not going to be the problem, itís going to be the space in the newspapers to jam it all in, the airwaves to fill all of it.

(M): Can you amplify that?

(D): How many newspapers are there left to the year 2000, how many covers are there left? Not many. I think there are a lot of people who want to get on the cover of newspapers. Thereíre a lot of issues fighting to get on the cover of newspapers. Iíve had a few covers, so Iím set. Iím satisfied. But other people certainly want to get in and I think thereís going to be an absolute rush to get your Q rating up before the year 2000. The window on the century is closing down and everyone wants to have made a point, I think, and been a part of it. I think the cable shows always adapt. Fox news channel has an audience thatís not going anywhere. Where are they going to go? Back to CNN? I think theyíd rather die than do that. Or turn it off.

So I think the dynamic is set. The volume of viewers for these cable shows isnít that great anyway. Youíre talking about a cult of maybe four or five million people watching all the different shows. Or, if you compare that to a Limbaugh, who gets so many millions of people every 15 minutes, itís not even comparable. And Limbaughís always managed to move on. And I think the cable shows will too.

(M): What you do on the Web is all content, zero glitz. Thereís not a spec of glitz on that site. You were one of the first people to say, Hereís the content. Itís all content.

I had my website five years ago, before The New York Times, before The Washington Post, before CNN, before MSNBC, and theyíre trying to tell me how to do Web journalism? I think people like MSNBC are bastardizing this new medium, taking this electronic TV junk thatís not really working and throwing it on the Internet and claiming theyíre the Internet leader in news.

I went out to Seattle, I got a tour of the compound up there, the Microsoft campus, the MSNBC newsroom. It looked no different than your local TV station. I was thinking, theyíre trying to apply the formula thatís working or may not be working on a local TV level to an Internet thing, with newsrooms and banks of monitors and clocks. The whole thing looked like a bad Walter Cronkite dream. How does that apply to a website?

People say, oh Drudge, why arenít you covering Trent Lott speaking in front of a racist group? I say, that doesnít interest me. Maybe Gephardt speaking in front of a racist group, maybe not. Itís got to be interesting. I argued this at this Bar Association thing last night.

Thatís my first criterion: Itís got to be interesting. And they pooh-poohed me, saying, "Heís more interested in making it interesting than the reliability of it."

That is not what I said. Chelsea Clintonís on the cover of People because Time Warner thinks sheís interesting, not because thereís any news value to it.

And the Clintons were really busted because someone this morning on one of the shows whipped out the earlier Chelsea cover. This one happened to be with Bill and Hillary and the little Chelsea. They were promoting her when he was running for president. So they can use her on the cover of People then, when she was brace-faced. Now when she's on her own...

(M): I think that was on the Today show.

(D): I don't believe it was the Today show. They've got no backbone. After what the Today show did to me, I won't believe it till I see it.

(M): What did they do to you?

(D): I get up there and give them the biggest story of the year and then I go and report that there's a dress and there's a DNA chase and Matt Lauer says, That's ridiculous, and I said, Tell it to Richard Jewell.

Well, Matt Lauer, that's not fair. He's not working with a full deck.

There's a time lapse from what they're telling him in his ear to what he can say.

(M): Do you have any preference for candidates for 2000?

(D): Iím blank. Iím probably going to take the 2000 election off. The parties are so disillusioned that thereís no difference between a Trent Lott and a Bill Bradley. And even the people I would tend to like, like a Pat Buchanan or a Dan Quayle, have been so marginalized and so freakshowed out by the same people who think Vernon Jordanís a hero.

JWR contributor "Mugger" is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


02/10/99:The Impeachment Trial Splatters: Lindsey Graham Emerges a Hero
02/05/99: A Slight Stumble for Bush
01/29/99: Rich Is Back in the Tank
01/29/99: Not So Fast, Mr. & Mrs. Pundit
01/27/99:This Is Not America: Clintonís Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers
01/25/99:Sniffles and High Fever: Kids Say the Darndest Things
01/20/99: Whole Lott(a) Waffling Goin' On
01/14/99: Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office
01/08/99: Drudge Is the Hero
01/06/99 : MUGGER & the Martians
12/30/98 : Last Licks of í98: Some Heroes, Several Villains & Many Idiots
12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irvingís the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starrís Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabarís: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1998, Russ Smith