Accuracy in Media

Linda Tripp, who exposed Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, won a court victory recently, but the media completely ignored it. Tripp is suing the Defense Department for multiple violations of her privacy rights after she exposed the Lewinsky affair. Her suit alleges that her bosses at the Defense Department leaked derogatory information from her personnel and security file to the media. This was in retaliation for her role in the Starr investigation and the eventual impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Many believe that Tripp’s action contributed significantly to George W. Bush’s election victory in 2000. Given the closeness of the vote, who is to say that her exposure of the seediness and corruption in the Clinton-Gore White House did not make the difference? Surprisingly, the Bush administration has tried to have her claims dismissed or, failing that, narrowly limited to one specific violation.

It’s bad enough that, despite Papa Bush’s entreaties, the Bush White House refused to rehire her after Bill Clinton fired her on his last full day in office. Ironically, Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, denied the Bush administration’s request for a summary judgment dismissal of Tripp’s lawsuit. He also ordered the government to develop with Tripp’s attorneys a broader plan for discovery.

Tripp’s attorneys issued a press release detailing Judge Sullivan’s decision, but AIM could find no evidence of any media interest in the story. Tripp’s attorneys reported exactly one phone call from an Associated Press reporter, who did not produce a story. Of course, few people in recent history have been as vilified by the mainstream media as Linda Tripp. Her role as a whistleblower in the Clinton sex scandal made her a public figure, which exposed her to one of the most vicious media smear campaigns in recent memory. Asked why the Bush administration is opposing Tripp’s lawsuit, her attorney said that “they just want her to go away.”

Tripp is not the only Clinton era whistleblower to get cold-shoulder treatment from the Bush administration and the national media. A recent study released by the National Whistleblower Center revealed that retaliation against whistleblowers remains a serious problem in the United States. Nearly half of those surveyed by the Center say they were fired after blowing the whistle and that retaliation was rampant in both government and the private sector. The study cited the example of Enron and WorldCom employees who were aware of shady accounting practices but who were afraid to contact federal authorities due to the lack of whistleblower protection. The study also cites FBI agents fearful of revealing the vulnerabilities in federal counter-terrorism programs, but afraid to speak out prior to the nine/eleven tragedy.

The AP ran a wire story on this study. It was picked up, but buried by the New York Times. Both Washington dailies, supposedly devoted to good coverage of events in the nation’s capital, ignored the story. The media are neglecting their basic mission to act as a watchdog to expose government wrongdoing.

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