One might think from the breaking news that a woman has claimed she had a 13-year affair with presidential candidate Herman Cain that someone is being seriously exposed as a hypocrite. That would be the press. The media can’t deny they continue to display a lousy double standard. For Republican candidates, scandal news is instant. For Democrats, it’s eventual, if at all!
Ginger White’s charges sound a lot like Gennifer Flowers in 1992 saying she has a 12-year affair with Bill Clinton. So many in the press pounce on Flowers as unequivocal evidence of the media’s sense of balance. After all, they will remind us, just look how we covered that scandal!
Yes, look. Because it’s a wonderful exercise in media disinformation. Political junkies remember that Flowers held a press conference carried live on CNN on Thursday afternoon, January 23, 1992. It had all the elements for snappy news. She played audio tapes of phone conversations with Clinton. Despite all this, the first network mention was a brief mention by NBC’s Lisa Myers – more than 24 hours later. Other than that, the three broadcast network morning and evening newscasts waited to breathe the name “Flowers” for four days.
And then they dismissed the scandal as a non-scandal. On ABC, anchorman Peter Jennings (who had four wives) set the tone: “At several stops today, talking about Gennifer Flowers, Governor Clinton denounced what he called ‘trash for cash’. And there appear to be quite a few people who agree.” Jennings declared a quick ABC poll found only 26 percent wouldn’t vote for an adulterous candidate. “But our polling unit points out that at least half of those people who said no are Republicans and unlikely to vote for Governor Clinton anyway.”
The networks rewarded Clinton with all this tolerance because, as liberal journalist Hendrik Hertzberg explained at the time, reporters loved Clinton’s potential: “[T]hey think he would make a very good, perhaps a great, President. Several told me they were convinced that Clinton is the most talented presidential candidate they have ever encountered, JFK included.”
Herman Cain is the polar opposite of Bill Clinton to these people. Political reporters consider him an under-educated buffoon, and as a black conservative, possibly self-loathing to boot. So there are no reasons to delay adultery charges. In fact, they should be rushed on the air, followed by sneering political death notices.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams was the first network anchor on the scene. This is the same anchorman that just expressed great joy and delight that NBC will be blessed by a woman with zero journalistic experience named Chelsea Clinton. Williams oozed on CNN that Chelsea was “super smart and worldly and curious,” an “impressive, impressive woman” with a “very, very unique viewpoint.” Grovel, grovel, grovel.
But here’s what’s sick. Ginger White makes an adultery charge against Cain and she’s on NBC within hours. But when Juanita Broaddick accused Chelsea’s father of raping her in a 1999 Dateline NBC interview, then-anchor Tom Brokaw never allowed one single second of her voice to break into the NBC Nightly News.
By morning, Cain was dismissed as a political corpse, or a ghost. On ABC, anchor Robin Roberts suggestively asked, "Do [White's] shocking revelations spell doom for his troubled campaign?" On CBS, political analyst John Dickerson proclaimed, "It's hard to see how he
comes back from this...At the worst, it's a death blow to the campaign."
But NBC’s Chuck Todd was the most colorful, citing movies: Now we're in sort of ‘The Sixth Sense’ mode. Everybody knows this candidacy is basically dead except the campaign.” Todd then suggested he wasn’t so much a ghost as an object: “I think that Cain is not necessarily hurting the field anymore. He's become a sideshow. It's almost a shiny metal object at this point.”
These death notices may be entirely accurate, but that’s not the point. What is salient here is that Cain’s scandals have been covered aggressively from Day One by the same media that summarily refused – and to this day refuse – to cover allegations against Bill Clinton that are a hundred-fold more serious.
To my knowledge, the only TV reporter to ask Clinton directly about the rape charge (twice) was Sam Donaldson. Did it not send red flags skyward when both times instead of denying the charge, Clinton referred the matter to his attorney?
Night after night and morning after morning, the broadcast TV “news” makers demonstrate their “journalism” is carefully managed and manipulated into tidy packages designed to provide the maximum political benefit to liberals and the maximum political damage to conservatives.
Why am I not the slightest bit surprised that a Washington Post employee is tweeting over the Internet: “Hey Tweeps: Looking for utlandish/incorrect predictions and quotes from Newt Gingrich’s past. Any ideas for me?”
Newt, it’s your turn.