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1 March 1999

From the Daily Howler assignment desk: Not that they’ll ever do it

Synopsis: Two story lines which the press corps has missed in working the Broaddrick story.

No Rest for the Scandal-Weary
Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post, 3/1/99

Accuser in Rape Case Faces Perjury Trial
Brooke A. Masters, The Washington Post, 3/1/99

Commentary by Heather Nauert
Hannity & Colmes, Fox News Channel, 2/26/99

We think Howard Kurtz has been a voice of reason in the press corps’ response to Mrs. Broaddrick’s charges, but this morning, we found Kurtz wringing his hands over the problems confronting the media. The pundits would like to pursue the story. They can’t figure out how to do it:

KURTZ: Now that Juanita Broaddrick has made her accusation against President Clinton...where does the press go from here? The conventions of journalism generally require a second-, third-, or fourth-day lead, some legal or investigative machinery to propel the story line forward.

Poor babies! The pundits would like to do some reporting, but they can’t figure out what to do!

Oddly enough, another story in this morning’s Post speaks to one possibility. Brooke Masters reports on B3 of Metro about a perjury trial in a case of accused rape:

MASTERS: False rape reports are one of law enforcement’s thorniest problems. Rape accusations are four times more likely to be false than other violent crime reports, local and national FBI statistics show, yet many genuine victims don’t go to authorities because they fear that they won’t be believed.

Masters’ statistic on false rape accusations belongs right in the middle of the Broaddrick story--although this would fly in the face of the rules being laid down by thought czar Patricia Ireland. Ireland--arguably the dumbest person on earth--has been busy instructing the press and public as to what we can all think and say on this matter, and she doesn’t want anyone breathing the thought that Mrs. Broaddrick could be making things up. Here’s Ireland, speaking to Fox’s Rita Cosby, instructing us all on our options:

IRELAND: These charges have to be taken seriously. [Mrs. Broaddrick] must be treated fairly, respectfully. We have to call on the president and all of his spokespeople, James Carville and all of them, not to trash the woman. We have to move away from that old style of saying she either made it up or she asked for it. (Fox News Sunday, 2/28)

But what if the accuser did make it up, as Masters says accusers sometimes do? Especially given the silly bromides endlessly broadcast by spinners like Ireland, the press corps clearly could do some reporting on the issues that Masters discussed--although no such reporting could hope to determine whether Mrs. Broaddrick’s specific charges are true.

But we can think of another obvious story we haven’t yet seen reported. Why didn’t Ken Starr and the House GOP base an article of impeachment on Broaddrick’s allegations? The question was briefly raised on the talk shows this weekend, but standard spinners quickly held sway. William Bennett, on Meet the Press, was ready with canned misdirection:

BENNETT: At the moment it looks like there are clearly serious and plausible, there’s a plausible notion that the president of the United States committed rape...But it also appears, judging from most of the media and most of the public reaction, the silence on Capitol Hill, that most people are just too tired to inquire into the question as to whether the president of the United States committed rape.

Nice try, but in the case of the reaction in Congress, Bennett’s statement just won’t wash. The question is: why didn’t the House pursue the Broaddrick allegation last fall, when impeachment fever ran strong? Sadly, Ireland was right at Bennett’s side, always ready to extend the confusion:

IRELAND: We saw the Senate and the House once again, as they did with Anita Hill, as they did with dozens of women who were accusing Packwood, sweep it under the rug...Starr’s people and the House managers didn’t feel that the public could deal with this, we weren’t allowed to know, we weren’t allowed to have the political power of knowing that, because they considered the report inconclusive.

Exactly. But why did they consider the report inconclusive? Why did people who wanted to remove Clinton from office not act on Broaddrick’s charges?

Just for the record, we are not asking why the House didn’t charge Clinton with obstruction concerning Mrs. Broaddrick. On Hannity & Colmes last Friday night, model-ready Heather Nauert was on hand with more standard spin:

ELLEN RATNER: They didn’t do anything with it in the impeachment hearings. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Ken Starr didn’t do anything with it.

NAUERT: OK. Ellen, it didn’t fall under the auspices of Article One or Article Two in the impeachment.

But of course, it could have come forward as Article Three. The press corps should learn why it didn’t.

But speaking of nothing, nada, and zero, we won’t hold our breath waiting to see this occur. Kurtz has done some good reporting in the Broaddrick matter. His lazy colleagues rarely seem so inclined.