Accuracy in Media

Ambassador Bill Richardson apparently lied when he said at his recent confirmation hearings that a UN job he offered to Monica Lewinsky last year was to fill an existing opening. As a result of this apparent deception, and the great lengths to which Richardson went in order to explain the job offer after the Lewinsky scandal broke publicly, Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska, who chairs the Senate committee which confirmed Richardson as Energy secretary, has sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to hold off swearing Richardson in to his new post.

This sounded to us like a major story. Another high ranking member of the Clinton administration is apparently in trouble for trying to quash a bimbo eruption, and he is getting dragged down into the muck of Clinton’s, quote, unquote “personal life.” After a distinguished career as a congressman from New Mexico, unofficial ambassador-at-large to world hot spots, and UN ambassador under Bill Clinton, Richardson’s career could end in infamy for trying to help Clinton by paying off Lewinsky, an unpaid White House intern, with a prestigious UN job.

With so much news focusing on the Lewinsky story, we were surprised to see that in the first several days following the Washington Times breaking this story, there has been nothing in the New York Times, Washington Post, or any of the four major networks on Richardson’s new problems. The only place we saw it on TV was on Drudge on the Fox News Channel, where maverick Internet journalist Matt Drudge’s guest was Bill Sammon, the reporter who broke the story.

According to Sammon, there were three main areas where Richardson deceived the panel. He had claimed that the position offered to Monica was an existing slot, though it later turned out not to have been so. There was no effort to fill the job that Monica was offered until three months later, after the scandal had broken publicly. Secondly, Richardson described the job as low-level. Monica was offered $30,000 a year. The senior-staff person, Paul Aronsohn, who later filled the slot that Richardson said was the same one offered Monica, was paid more than double what Monica was offered, plus he had high-level experience in areas such as nuclear disarmament and the UN dues controversy.

The third main area of controversy had to do with what city and section the job entailed. Richardson said the job had to be in New York, though he had transferred Aronsohn to Washington from New York several weeks before testifying to the committee. An after-the-fact memo once the scandal broke shows how standard procedure was ignored in offering this job to Monica. Aronsohn was transferred from the political to the press section, contrary to a State Department Inspector General recommendation – in an effort to try to create a credible scenario.

Senator Murkowski wrote the following in his letter to the president on August 7: “A news story published in the Washington Times today contains information in apparent contradiction to Ambassador Richardson’s sworn statements to the committee. I have an obligation to look into these serious allegations,” unquote. Stay tuned.

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