Accuracy in Media

He is “evil, vicious, vindictive, sick and malevolent.” Who is “he?” It’s not Bill Clinton but Ken Starr, the son of a preacher and a deeply religious man who has charged the president with committing impeachable offenses. And that verdict on Starr was delivered by The Capital, a newspaper based in Annapolis, Maryland. The paper went on to say that Starr is a “vicious perverter of our system of law. He, and those who work with him, are sick.” It called Starr “un-American.”

You may be interested to know that such a view is distinctly a minority view among our major newspapers. Most papers have called on Clinton, not Starr, to go. In fact, more than 115 daily newspapers have called on Clinton to resign. These include the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Oklahoman, the Orlando Sentinel, the Des Moines Register, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and USA Today. But this onslaught has not been enough to force Clinton out of office.

One reason Clinton may be hanging on to power is the recognition that some of the nation’s most influential liberal newspapers have refused to urge his ouster. One paper that has refused to join the chorus against him is the Washington Post, the largest circulation newspaper in the nation’s capital. Known for its Watergate coverage that helped bring down President Richard Nixon, the Post is a liberal Democratic paper that supported Clinton for election in 1992 and re-election in 1996. It can’t quite bring itself for call for Clinton to go – perhaps because it would amount to an admission that it had been wrong to trust Clinton in the past.

It is frustrating to watch the Post dance around the issue. In an editorial appearing after the airing of Clinton’s taped testimony to the federal grand jury, the paper still refused to call for Clinton to go. However, it didn’t dispute that he had committed perjury. The Post admitted that Clinton had “plainly lied under oath in a court proceeding and repeatedly in public and private thereafter about the nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.” But that is apparently not serious enough to force him out of office.

Concerning Clinton’s grand jury performance, the Post says, “Woe unto us.” It called his conduct an “abdication of responsibility.” At the same time, the paper says there is not a “self-evidently perfect solution” to the problem he has presented to us. “Our position,” the paper says, “continues to be that Congress needs to open a formal impeachment inquiry and decide as that unfolds what course to take.” That seems like a safe option. But what does it mean? What kind of evidence is the Post waiting for? By their own admission, they already have evidence of him lying under oath. Are they waiting for another smoking gun?

It appears that the paper is biding its time. This may reflect a disagreement on its own editorial board about what action to take. But the Post is not the only major newspaper stalling on this matter. Other papers resisting calls for Clinton’s resignation include the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

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