Accuracy in Media

The Los Angeles Times reported that about 1,000 readers had canceled their subscriptions to protest its publication of stories about women claiming that Arnold Schwarzenegger had sexually harassed women. In addition, the paper said that it had received as many as 400 phone calls critical of its coverage?many of them “angry, some profane.” Jamie Gold, the Times’ readers’ representative, said she was aware of few events that have ever triggered such anger.

But columnist John Leo, a conservative, said the anger was not justified and that the Times had left plenty of time?five days before the election?for Arnold to respond. Leo said, “Stories about Arnold feeling up and talking grossly to random women have been circulating for years. What was the Times supposed to do, sit on the evidence it had that the tales were true? Besides, the Times carefully included quotes from women depicting Arnold as a sort of lighthearted and sexually frisky innocent. Could be, but putting your hand up a woman’s skirt or down her blouse isn’t just harassment. It’s assault. And the tales told by the Times aren’t just about groping. They are about attempts to degrade?”

The conservative candidate, State Senator Tom McClintock, said that if the charges were proven true, Schwarzenegger did not deserve to be the governor. “As the father of a 13-year-old daughter, I would have a great deal of trouble accepting that that kind of conduct has been elevated to the highest office in the state,” he said. This followed revelations that Schwarzenegger had told a pornographic magazine that he had engaged in group sex and illegal drug use. At first, Schwarzenegger, who was 29 at the time of the interview, said he had been “outrageous in his youth.” Later, he said the statements were made made up, crazy and exaggerated.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had complained about the Times coverage of Schwarzenegger’s woman problem. He asked, “Do you think the L.A. Times sent a squad of reporters to Arkansas to investigate Bill Clinton’s problems with women? No, it did not.” In fact, the Times did investigate that matter, running a long piece on December 21, 1993.

In terms of bias, the real issue, as columnist Emmett Tyrrell pointed out, was how the Los Angeles Times handled the rape allegation against Clinton. “[T]hey buried the story in the back of the paper,” Tyrrell said of the Times. “Of course, the rape charge against Clinton was different from most of the groping charges against Schwarzenegger. It had a source willing to be identified. Her name is Juanita Broaddrick, and unlike Schwarzenegger, Clinton has neither apologized nor admitted.”

Schwarzenegger’s staffers repeatedly attacked “yellow journalism” by the Times, and Arnold himself repeatedly complained about media bias. But in the end, he admitted that some of the sexual harassment allegations against him were true. He apologized, saying he had “behaved badly” toward women. The Times’ stories may have been biased, but they were also at least partly true. People may want to find another reason to cancel their subscriptions.

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