Accuracy in Media

Geraldo Rivera was at it again, shamelessly flacking for Bill Clinton by spreading lies fed to him by the White House on August 24 on his CNBC nightly show. He attacked Representative Paul McHale, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. McHale, who is not running for re-election, had called on Clinton to resign, the first congressman from either party to do so. Rivera told his audience that he (quote) “just got a call from my source very close to President Clinton, who reminded me that there was a controversy in terms of the medals [McHale] won in the armed forces of the United States. He was indeed a…Bronze Star winner, but maybe he claimed something even more honorable than that.” (unquote)

McHale enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1972 and then in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1974 on. He twice returned to active duty, following the bombing of Marine headquarters in Beirut, and following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He was among the first Marines deployed in Saudi Arabia. In 1994 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, in which he still serves. He earned several decorations, but he has never claimed to have been awarded the Bronze Star or any other medals for heroism.

When McHale ran for Congress in 1992 his opponent charged that he had exaggerated his military service, but that charge was not supported by the official Marine Corps records. When Rivera’s allegation that there was a controversy about what medals McHale had won was disputed, Geraldo came back the next night with a Clintonesque apology, saying, (quote) “I apologize, Mr. McHale,” if either my reference to the Medal of Honor or the Bronze Star was inaccurate. But in fairness to me, apparently there has been some very real controversy over your claims about your military service.”

Rivera cited the Navy Times as a source for the latter allegation, but that was denied by the Navy Times itself. Geraldo brought the subject up again the next night, saying, “Now, although the Navy Times tells us they did publish articles about Congressman McHale and his military record, the paper informed us today that they have never written anything about the allegations of the controversy itself.” He then showed nine stories that had appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper in 1992 about the charges made by McHale’s opponent that had been shown to be unfounded. He then said, “Congressman, I’m sorry, let’s move on. I don’t think anything more needs to be said about it.”

This is a good illustration of Clinton’s use of the strategy of digging up dirt on his critics and getting friendly journalists to spread it around. In this case, Rivera demonstrated his willingness to be a conduit for White House garbage, not even bothering to check it out. He was rewarded with special treatment on Clinton’s China trip.

Congressman Paul McHale commented, “This is a pretty consistent response we’ve seen from this White House whenever anyone raises criticism. It confirms some of our most serious concerns, that this administration does not have a commitment to truth.”

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