Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler title Graphic
Caveat lector

26 February 1999

Our current howler: Slick on Willey

Synopsis: The press corps thought it saw a pattern, comparing Juanita Broaddrick with Willey.

MO for a president?
Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, 2/25/99

Commentary by Chris Matthews, Mary Matalin
Hardball, CNBC, 2/24/99

Commentary by Sean Hannity
Hannity and Colmes, Fox News Channel, 2/23/99

Life in this celebrity press corps means always believing accusers. And, as the discussion of Juanita Broaddrick has shown, it also means seeing a pattern. Those pundits! They can see more patterns in Bill Clinton’s life than the average guy sees in Laura Ashley’s old sheets. Listen to our favorite, the irate Michael Kelly, in one of his trademark rants:

KELLY: [A]bove all, Broaddrick’s story is believable because of its wretched familiarity. When Paula Jones first charged that Clinton had lured her to a hotel room in Little Rock, exposed himself to her and groped her, some Clinton defenders said the charge didn’t fit their man’s MO. He was a Lothario, but not a pig or a brute. But then came Monica Lewinsky, with her recounting of the most piggish behavior--of a boss who obliged her to sexually service him while he chatted on the phone. And then came Kathleen Willey with her story of the most brutish behavior--of Clinton suddenly mauling her during an Oval Office job-seeking visit. What Broaddrick says Clinton did does indeed fit what we know of our suspect’s MO. [Our emphasis]

The notion that the Lewinsky matter fits an “MO” of rape is so foolish one hardly knows how to comment. Even the corps’ other fevered pundits haven’t ventured to offer that claim.

But in evoking Willey and “her story,” Kelly echoes the pundit chorale that has flooded news channels this week. Relentlessly, pundits have pimped the connection--Kathleen Willey says that he groped her too! Chris Matthews did some compare-and-contrast, with Steven Salzburg, on Wednesday night, playing Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Here’s the charge and I want you to distinguish between sexual assault, which I thought was the charge that might have dealt more with the Kathleen Willey type of situation where the president did, pawed her, whatever...

Moments later, Matthews found other similarities. He was speaking of the alleged Broaddrick incident:

MATTHEWS: There was at the time a lot of, nothing corroborative, except that apparently [Broaddrick] did share this experience contemporaneously. A lot of these women did that, by the way. That’s the argument that Kathleen Willey has made. That she shared the information.

For the record, it is especially ironic that Matthews assumes the truth of this part of Willey’s account, since Willey has been specifically challenged on this matter by former friend Julie Steele. But Kathleen Willey is an accuser, and it’s the law that accusers speak true. Sean Hannity, on Tuesday night, saw the Willey connection quite clearly:

HANNITY: Allan mentioned [the Broaddrick case] doesn’t fit Bill Clinton’s behavior. I beg to differ. We all saw the interview of Kathleen Willey on Sixty Minutes. What did the president do? He groped, he grabbed, he fondled, he touched. He took her hand and put it on his private area. There does seem to be a pattern of this behavior.

All over the media, pundits cited Willey, claiming a pattern of sexual assault. Mary Matalin, on Hardball, swung hard:

MATALIN: He is a serial sexual sociopath...I don’t know any one of these cases that hasn’t proved to be true.

Here at THE HOWLER, we do not know if Broaddrick’s charges are true. But we do know groaning dishonesty when we see it, and in the case of the treasured Kathleen Willey, we’ve seen it all over the dial. Perhaps Matalin doesn’t know of any false cases because CelebCorps has simply refused to report them--specifically, has refused to report Linda Tripp’s detailed testimony, contradicting every word Willey said.

We’ve reported this problem again and again, as readers will see (links in postscripts). The press corps has refused to tell the public about the remarkable things Linda Tripp said. Now, hoping to “show” that Broaddrick’s charges aren’t all that different from other things Clinton’s done, they persistently refer to the Willey “story”--all the while refusing to say there is very good reason to doubt the things Willey has said.

We say it again: we don’t know if Broaddrick’s charges are accurate. But we do know that a press corps should not be allowed to tell only the stories they like. The press corps’ refusal to report Tripp’s grand jury statement has been a remarkable story since last October 2. Now, CelebCorps’ prosecutorial use of the doctored tale is nothing short of a journalistic disgrace.

Why a disgrace? Well, here’s a caller to MSNBC’s Hockenberry. The caller said that she had once been a victim of sexual assault:

CALLER: You’ve got so many of us out there watching [Dateline], which was very difficult to watch this evening, who don’t doubt for a minute that the man is an assaultive personality, and believed it before this story came to light, believed it when we heard the Kathleen Willey and the Jones story...I believe this follows perfectly. [Our emphasis]

But does this follow Willey’s story at all? Only if Willey’s story is true. There is substantial reason to think it is not. But the press corps doesn’t want you to know it.

Surely, the caller is following this story in good faith, and believes she is being dealt with in good faith by the media. In the case of those pundits who are out pimping Willey, that would be a mistaken idea.

Visit our incomparable archives: For links to previous reporting on Tripp’s grand jury testimony, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/8/99.

Tomorrow: The pundits just can’t imagine a reason why Broaddrick would make this stuff up.