The day after Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy for president, MSNBC's Martin Bashir took the opportunity to rail against the Republican contender for criticizing former President Bill Clinton's adulterous behavior while he was engaging in sexual transgressions of his own.
On his eponymous program today, Bashir admonished the former House speaker's "hypocrisy" but failed to mention even once that the Democratic president didn't just cheat on his wife, but committed perjury to cover up the affair.
"So when [Gingrich] commits adultery, it's all about his predicament," spun Bashir. "He was under pressure from work and all kinds of professional responsibilities. But when Bill Clinton has a fling, well that has nothing to do with his predicament; that's all about his corrupt personality."
The former ABC anchor spoke of "forgetting the past," but his soliloquy was focused entirely on the history of Gingrich's personal life.
"You may recall that at the very moment when he was pursuing a relentless attack on President Bill Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Gingrich himself was cheating on his second wife."
For an anchor who conducts a daily segment dubbed "Clear the Air," misleading his viewers into believing that Gingrich's "relentless attack" was about adultery and not perjury serves only to, borrowing another phrase, muddy the waters.
A transcript of Martin Bashir's May 12 "Clean the Air" segment can be found below:
May 12, 2011
3:57 p.m. EDT
MARTIN BASHIR: It's time now to "Clear the Air" and following the news that Newt Gingrich is putting himself forward as a Republican candidate for 2012, there's been an understandable focus, not just on his policies, but also on his personal life. You may recall that at the very moment when he was pursuing a relentless attack on President Bill Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Gingrich himself was cheating on his second wife. He since offered a somewhat self-serving explanation for his serial adultery, claiming it was his obsession with work that led him into temptation.
NEWT GINGRICH, former speaker of the House: There's no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I feel about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were inappropriate.
BASHIR: Now what's interesting about Newt's explanation is that he committed the same error that all of us do when it comes to making judgements about others but exonerating ourselves. So when he commits adultery, it's all about his predicament. He was under pressure from work and all kinds of professional responsibilities. But when Bill Clinton has a fling, well that has nothing to do with his predicament; that's all about his corrupt personality. And that's why people are finding it so hard to forgive and forget Newt's transgressions. It's not that he broke his vows – that's par for the course in about half of marriages in this country – it's that he chose to condemn one man for his failings yet uses an entirely different measure to explain away his own misdemeanors. It's called hypocrisy and a double standard. If Newt really wants to forget the past, then here's what he might consider doing. First, he should offer an apology to President Clinton and admit that he failed too. And second, he should apply exactly the same standards to himself that he's used against others. And I suspect that what he'll quickly discover is a capacity for far more understanding and compassion for the predicament of other people than he's ever had before. Thanks so much for watching.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.
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