Accuracy in Media

The day that ABC aired Monica Lewinsky?s interview, the New York Post?s front-page headline screamed, “MONICA PHONE SEX SHOCKER.” The story began, saying, (quote) “Israel blackmailed President Clinton with phone-tapped tapes of his steamy sex talks with Monica Lewinsky.” It attributed this to a book, Gideon?s Spies?The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas. The article charged that Israeli spies taped some 30 hours of Clinton/Lewinsky phone sex and used the tapes to stop the search for an Israeli spy “deep within the White House.”

We were inclined to believe this story because Lewinsky said Clinton had told her that he suspected that a foreign embassy was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories. He told her that if she was ever questioned, she should say that they were just friends. If she was asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored, and the phone sex was a put-on.

When Ken Starr reported this, we criticized the media and Congress for ignoring it. We said it showed that Clinton’s conduct made him vulnerable to blackmail and that made him a security risk. This was under- reported by the media, and it was never raised in the impeachment debates in the House or Senate.

We at first saw the New York Post story as confirmation that Clinton?s scandalous personal behavior could result in serious harm to national security, but we changed our minds when we got the book on which it was based. The dust jacket says the author has published 37 books. We had never heard of him, and he seems never to have heard of documenting one?s claims. It also says that the book “tells how TWA Flight 800 was ruthlessly exploited by the Mossad, resulting in the FBI spending hundreds of fruitless man-hours seeking proof of a terrorist act that never happened.”

The book claims that the Mossad was responsible for thousands of media stories that spread “the fiction” that TWA 800 was shot down by a missile launched by Iranian or Iraqi terrorists. It says, (quote) “after spending some five hundred thousand dollars (sic) and ten thousand work hours, the FBI?s chief investigator, James Kallstrom ruled out a terrorist bomb or any evidence of a crime. Privately he told colleagues, ?If there was any way to nail those bastards in Tel Aviv for time wasting, I sure would like to see it happen. We had to check every item they slipped into the media.?”

Some stories suggested a Saudi terrorist group was to blame, but few, if any, fingered others. Reports that the plane was downed by a missile came from the hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw the crash, including a senior FBI agent. The investigation has cost over $40 million, not $500,000. Much of it paid for a futile effort to prove the eyewitnesses were wrong and that a fuel tank explosion blew up the plane. These errors strip the author of any credibility. Israel may have tapped Lewinsky?s phone, but no one should take Gordon Thomas? word for it.

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