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Jewish World Review / May 7, 1998 / 8 Iyar, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Media obstruction of justice

BEING OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER the character assassinations by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and Richard Nixon's obstruction of justice in the 1970s, I have something to compare the present Whitewater scandal with. What is currently happening is a new low.

At the height of Joe McCarthy's demagoguery, the worst that could be said about most of the media was that they lacked the guts to criticize him. Some disreputable newspapers and commentators joined in McCarthy's attacks. But most kept quiet, at least until legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow showed the courage to tackle McCarthy head-on.

During Nixon's obstruction of justice in the Watergate era, he lied to the public but there was no campaign of repeating and amplifying his lies by media allies. On the contrary, Nixon had very few media allies and an army of media critics.

During the current Whitewater scandal, and especially in the past few months, big-name TV talk-show hosts have maintained a night-after-night smear campaign against a special prosecutor who is forbidden by law to reveal what he or anyone else is saying or doing in the grand jury room.

Convicted embezzlers and other crooks whom special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has put behind bars for their felonies are invited on these TV talk shows again and again to take cheap shots at him, knowing that he cannot answer.

During the McCarthy era, witnesses could at least answer back, as could their attorneys. One memorable answer was: "Sir, have you no shame?" That question should be asked of the TV talk-show hosts today.

The issue is not whether they are being fair to Kenneth Starr. The issue is whether they are being straight with their viewers.

In their zeal to whip up sympathy for convicted felon Susan McDougal, these talk-show hosts and other media pundits are saying what a shame it is that Kenneth Starr has her dragged into court in chains. Kenneth Starr has no more say-so over whether Susan McDougal is in chains than you do or I do.

Prison authorities make those decisions. Anybody with an ounce of honesty or integrity could find that out very easily before spreading disinformation from coast to coast every night.

These same talk-show hosts and media pundits are also creating the impression that it is outrageous and unheard of for a special prosecutor to subpoena family members of someone under investigation, such as Monica Lewinsky's mother. Where were they -- and where was their outrage -- when special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh interrogated Oliver North's mother and minister?

Were these TV big mouths all chanting in unison that Walsh was "out of control"? Were they even complaining about how long the investigation was taking -- which was more than twice as long as Starr's investigation has taken?

What makes the current campaign of deception and demagoguery worse than that of Joe McCarthy or Richard Nixon is that much of it is being carried on by media journalists, not just by fraudulent politicians and their taxpayer-paid staffs of character assassins.

Large chunks of the media have aided the cover-up by misleading the public about the criminal conduct that is at issue and is being investigated. The Monica Lewinsky episode is being investigated because it looks like part of a long-standing pattern of criminal cover-ups by the Clintons, despite the media red herring that this is all about "the president's private sex life."

Even respectable news broadcasters tiptoe through the tulips by repeatedly referring to the McDougals' "failed" financial institution, for which Hillary Clinton was a lawyer. The issue is not failure but fraud -- and whether Hillary Clinton was part of that fraud.

The fraud itself has already been proven in a court of law, with more 20 felony convictions resulting. It was Hillary Clinton's drawing up of misleading documents to deceive bank regulators while these frauds were being committed that made the mysterious disappearance of her billing records part of the criminal investigation.

"Deceive" is not my word. It was the word used by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which had to pay off the depositors whose money had been looted by the Clintons' business partners and Hillary's clients.

Have media journalists merely "failed" to inform the public of this or are they helping to sweep the fraud under the rug?

5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.