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Suddenly, Motives Matter

The MRC was aghast that anyone would question the motives of Clinton's accusers. Now, it's equally aghast that Mark Felt's motives aren't being questioned enough. Plus: the ConWeb engages in Watergate revisionism.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/6/2005

The ConWeb used to think it was a bad thing to ask about the motives of those making accusations against government officials. The Media Research Center used to be especially offended by the idea:

  • "Monday night CBS again questioned how Ken Starr traveled from Whitewater to sex and scrutinized Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp, questioning their motives, as if that should matter." -- MRC's Brent Baker, Jan. 27, 1998, CyberAlert.
  • "Instead of portraying Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp as heroes, the networks prefer to disparage them by suggesting their conservative views discredits their evidence." -- Baker, Feb. 6, 1998, CyberAlert.
  • "The only reason why Clinton ever admitted anything was because of the existence of the stained dress, but instead of asking how she [Linda Tripp] had the prescience to make sure such key evidence was preserved, [NBC "Today" interviewer Jamie] Gangel impugned her motives." -- Baker, Feb. 12, 1999, CyberAlert.
  • "Then Gangel started knocking Tripp's motives." -- MRC MediaWatch on Gangel's interview with Tripp, Feb. 22, 1999.

But what is the thing that's really burning the MRC's toast regarding coverage of the revelation that former FBI official W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat, the mysterious source who guided Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their coverage of the Watergate scandal? That's right -- not enough focus on Felt's purported motives.

"In their series of Thursday morning interviews on ABC, NBC, and MSNBC, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein tried to dance around the issue of Mark Felt's personal motivations for leaking Watergate information from the FBI (but don't call it 'leaking,' they protested)," wrote the MRC's Tim Graham for a June 3 CyberAlert.

Graham goes on to impugn Felt's motives further by noting a Washington Post article in which Woodward notes that "There is little doubt Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis" and commenting: "Felt's fascist references suggest he may have had more in common with the liberals than the conservatives."

In a June 2 CyberAlert, Baker notes about an ABC report on Deep Throat: "Unaddressed by ABC's [Dean] Reynolds: Felt's possible revenge motive when President Nixon chose someone else to succeed J. Edgar Hoover as FBI Director." And Baker complained in a June 1 CyberAlert that "ABC failed to note that President Nixon's decision to not name him FBI Director, after the passing of J. Edgar Hoover, may have meant personal bitterness was his motivation."

But Brent, didn't you say just a few short years ago that motives didn't matter?

Baker and Graham are also trying to rewrite the history of Watergate. A June 1 "Media Reality Check" insists that Watergate was actually about "how to take down a Republican President for political gain and personal profit." For a so-called "reality check," however, it lacks a significant aspect of reality -- specifically, any mention the of crimes uncovered and the people sent to prison for them.

Strange, since the MRC tends to pounce on anyone who discounts the Clinton-era Whitewater as a politically motivated witch hunt. Typical is MRC head Brent Bozell's response in a September 1998 column to Geraldo Rivera's claim that "no impeachable offenses were found" against Clinton in the investigation: "Geraldo considers the fact that Kenneth Starr has convicted 12 people, including a jury verdict convicting the sitting Governor of Arkansas and the President's close Arkansas business partners on multiple felonies, to mean nothing."

Similarly, Baker and Graham seem to be asserting that the indictment of 40 government officials for "a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage," and the resignation of a president after implicating himself in the cover-up of some of the crimes, means nothing. -- which reprinted a January 2001 letter to President Clinton from Tripp's lawyers complaining that "Mrs. Tripp's motives and conduct were mischaracterized and her reputation was forever destroyed in the eyes of the American people" -- joined its MRC parent in attacking Felt.

A June 1 article by Susan Jones quoted Charles Colson and G. Gordon Liddy as saying, among other things, that Felt "broke the confidence of the president of the United States," but Jones fails to note that both Colson and Liddy went to prison for crimes uncovered in the Watergate investigation. One might even say that Jones overlooked Colson's and Liddy's motivations for attacking Felt.

In fact, of the six stories CNS ran about Felt on June 1, five of them attacked him. In addition to the above-noted article, another article by Jones is headlined "Felt Had Personal Motivation Then and Now, Reports Suggest" (but noted Colson's prison sentence), a third by Melanie Hunter quoted Liddy calling Felt "a pitiful, pathetic old man" (but noted only vaguely that Liddy "who was sent to jail for his role in the Watergate scandal") a fourth by Jones featuring Henry Kissinger calling Felt a "troubled man," and a fifth, also by Jones, quoting Alexander Haig asserting that "the resignation of Richard Nixon was a great tragedy for the country." The sixth story, by Jones, regurgitates an interview on NBC's "Today" with John O'Connor, the author of the Vanity Fair article in which Felt is identified as Deep Throat; O'Connor is mostly laudatory of Felt, but Jones makes sure to get the MRC spin point in: "What about the family's financial motivation? NBC's Katie Couric asked O'Connor."

The MRC was not the only member of the ConWeb to attack Felt's motives and downplay the crimes of Watergate.

From June 2 through 4, the teaser line on NewsMax's front page above links to Deep Throat articles was this: "With the identity of Deep Throat now revealed, the race is on by the protagonists -- Felt, Woodward and Bernstein -- for a huge payday," a view elaborated on in a June 2 article. A June 1 NewsMax article suggests that Felt "could pocket a seven-figure advance if he writes a book about his experiences."

Another June 1 article repeats Pat Buchanan's claim that Linda Tripp was at least as much of a hero as Felt. But if Felt could be accused of trying to cash in on his notoriety, so did Tripp, who was seeking a book deal about her Clinton years at the time she started illicitly taping Monica Lewinsky.

Yet NewsMax has been a longtime protector of Tripp; it made sure to note in a December 2000 article that a magazine interview she did was put off until after the 2000 presidential election so that "people would be less inclined to think my motivation political."

Well, gosh, we wouldn't want to think that, would we? Mark Felt, meanwhile, is fair game, even though NewsMax and the MRC had to reverse longstanding policy to do it.

A June 6 article by Phil Brennan goes the revisionist route, repeating Liddy's claims of a call-girl ring allegedly linked to the Democrats without noting Liddy's crimes and prison sentence (or any of the other crimes uncovered in the investigation). Brennan also accuses Felt's family of wanting "a lot of money" for the Deep Throat story and tries to smear Woodward and Bernstein; he accuses Woodward of being a fabricator and Bernstein of being "the son of top American communists" who "was inclined to despise Richard Nixon -- the man who nailed their hero, the Soviet agent Alger Hiss."

Gary Aldrich joined the revisionist fun with a June 4 NewsMax column: "In all the years I worked for the FBI, not once did I ever hear of a plot on the part of Nixon or any of his followers to do harm to political enemies." Aldrich also bashed Felt as "the latest of the liberal mainstream's colossal embarrassments" and insisted that the information Felt provided was "flimsy" and only "coincidentally proven by real evidence over the course of years."

Additionally, in accordance with NewsMax's policy of comparing any Republican-linked scandal with Clinton's alleged misdeeds, there's a June 1 article that fills the gap.

Accuracy in Media is taking a conspiratorial tack to the whole Deep Throat business. A June 3 column by Cliff Kincaid quotes two people who insist that despite the revelation, Felt really isn't Deep Throat, and that all the hoopla is just "an orchestrated publicity stunt on the part of the Post and Woodward" because Woodward plans to publish his own book on Felt.

WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, has avoided original coverage about the Deep Throat revelation -- editor Joseph Farah has been much more interested in continuing his anti-Clinton obsession by penning two anti-Clinton columns in the past week; its only original news article to date is a June 6 piece detailing Felt's daughter as head of a "counterculture family" who wants to cash in to pay off her son's law-school education -- but it has supplied the most bizarre take on it in the form of a June 4 column by Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of the conservative group Concerned Women for America.

To Knight, the most offensive part of the Watergate scandal was pulling the name "Deep Throat" from a porn movie. "For days, "Deep Throat" led all news broadcasts, from print to radio to television. Thus an obscene pornographic film from the 1970s gained new life to assault our cultural sensibilities," he wrote, adding: "The next time you hear about "Deep Throat," think about what liberals have done to decency, modesty and to children, all in the name of history or good government."

Apparently, like the MRC's Graham and Baker, Knight is so intent on attacking Democrats that he doesn't want us to remember the crimes and corruption that Deep Throat helped expose.

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