Bozell & Graham Column: Are Networks Going to Bury E-Mailgate?

On March 10, eight days after The New York Times began the scandal over her private e-mail server, Hillary Clinton assembled the press at the United Nations in New York to offer a typically legalistic and crabby press conference lasting only 21 minutes. The first-blush reaction from the pundits? That wasn’t good enough. She can’t expect the story to go away just from that mess.

But within 48 hours, that’s exactly what began to happen, with the networks suddenly finding other shiny news objects to explore. So here’s the question that needs to be asked: with the networks dumping investigators Lisa Myers and Michael Isikoff and Sharyl Attkisson, is there anyone on broadcast television interested in an investigation of Hillary’s decidedly opaque e-mail practices?

In her press conference, Mrs. Clinton made her usual categorical declarations like “I fully complied by every rule that I was governed by.” Will this be tested, or will Hillary’s e-mails become like the digital equivalent of Bill Clinton’s female accusers, buried and forgotten?

Let’s recall what then-Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten wrote about John Edwards after the entire fatherhood fiasco in 2008, and the entire national media elite tried not to “confirm” a story they didn’t like in the National Enquirer about a viable Democratic candidate.

Rutten wrote there were two kinds of confirmation. One sort occurs when an editor mutters, “Find somebody and have them make a few calls.” Or “there’s the sort that comes when that editor summons an investigative reporter with a heart like ice and a mind like Torquemada's and says, ‘Follow this wherever it goes and peel this guy like an onion.’”

This ice-veined Torquemada approach was applied to every 2012 Republican presidential contender. It’s already on display in this cycle against GOP front-runners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Is Hillary Clinton’s status as the one and only Democratic hope in the field going to cause the liberal media to fold and avoid damaging the Democrats?

ABC reported on March 17 that the e-mail problems are damaging for Hillary. “A new poll finds her favorability rating has dropped to 53 percent. More than half the people surveyed said it is a ‘serious problem.’ Most agreed she has not explained herself enough.”

CBS and NBC: How is that not news to you?

The liberal “news media” tendency to lose interest in the Obama scandals, as well as the Clinton scandals, breeds pessimism, and deserves public contempt. On Friday, March 13, President Obama traveled to the V.A. hospital in Phoenix,  the source of the original scandal on the wait-list fiasco. Only CBS noticed, with a tough Evening News report from Wyatt Andrews on how veterans are still being delayed in their health care. ABC and NBC – with the top two most popular network evening shows –  couldn’t be bothered with covering the president. ABC instead highlighted Obama’s jokes from his appearance on their show Jimmy Kimmel Live the night before.

Meanwhile, the IRS scandal keeps bubbling along. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has issued more subpoenas for documents and the IRS watchdog charged with investigating Lois Lerner’s missing e-mails said he’s now looking into “potential criminal activity.” But the networks have routinely ignored every new development for months now, so they ignored these as well.

This scandal pattern is as obnoxious as it is predictable. A liberal newspaper breaks a serious news story about a liberal, everyone might take it seriously for a week or ten days, but then it dies without resolution. Once the scandal is buried, nobody really wants to dig it up again.

It looks like the Clintons are playing the game just as they did in the 1990s.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center
Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis