Bill Clinton has built his political career on a foundation of friends in the media who are willing to cover up for him. When he told his close associates in 1991 that he intended to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, they warned him that this could bring about the exposure of the many skeletons in his closet. He told them not to worry. He had successfully surmounted that problem since he first ran for office in Arkansas.
Clinton had big problems during the 1992 primary campaign, but his friends in the media, like Rick Kaplan, who was then with ABC News and is now the president of CNN, came to his aid. Kaplan is believed to have played a role in getting ABC News to sacrifice a big scoop that it had been given?the letter Clinton had written in 1969 in which he explained why he had broken his promise to enroll in the ROTC at the University of Arkansas. It was just a ploy to escape the draft.
ABC News sat on that letter, giving the Clinton campaign time to figure out how to respond. Their response was an attack. They accused the Pentagon of releasing the letter. That was false, but it served to blunt the damage to some extent.
Now it is NBC News that is protecting Clinton. NBC has been working on the story of Juanita Broaddrick for over a year. She is the nursing home owner in Arkansas, who says Bill Clinton raped her in 1978 when he was Arkansas? attorney general. NBC?s Lisa Myers, interviewed Broaddrick on camera for eight hours in January. She found her story highly credible, and it has been corroborated by several people .
But someone at NBC has been keeping it off the air. They delayed so long that they lost their scoop. The first published interview of Juanita Broaddrick appeared on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on February 19. That was followed two days later by a big story in The Washington Post. The Post had interviewed Broaddrick off the record several times. She released the Post from the off-the-record commitment when the Journal interview was published. The story, which NBC could have aired at the end of January, when the Senate was still considering the impeachment charges, has now been reported in papers all over the country.
Robert Wright, the president of NBC, told me on February 5 that the story was being held up because they had not been able to find the date of the alleged assault. Not true! Wright had been misinformed. The president of NBC News, Andrew Lack, briefs Robert Wright. A former colleague says Lack is like Rick Kaplan, which suggests that Lack is the first person the White House would call to kill the story. Clark Mollenhoff, a great reporter, once attended a White House dinner with his wife. When she said how much she enjoyed it, he replied, “That?s why we will never do it again.” Clark knew that political friendships are the enemy of good journalism. NBC?s handling of the Broaddrick story shows us why.