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The Clinton Equivocation

NewsMax has mastered the art of deflecting bad news about the Bush administration and conservatives by claiming that the Clintons did it first and worse.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/3/2006

Call it the Clinton Equivocation -- the ConWeb's act of minimizing any misdeed by the Bush administration by comparing it to something done allegedly first and worse during the Clinton administration.

This behavior first surfaced on 9/11, when both NewsMax and WorldNetDaily couldn't wait until the bodies of the victims were cold before rushing to blame President Clinton for the terrorist attacks, as ConWebWatch documented.

Since then, NewsMax has emerged as the leader in employing the Clinton Equivocation. Most recently, NewsMax cited it to counter the Bush administration's domestic spying scandal; a Dec. 18 article falsely blamed Clinton for the Echelon spy program (in fact, it began in the late 1970s, as ConWebWatch detailed after another NewsMax article falsely claimed that Clinton eavesdropped on Strom Thurmond's phone calls. A Dec. 22 article claimed that "civil liberties went out the window with Hillary and her husband actually in charge."

Even something like Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shooting a hunting companion is Clinton Equivocation fodder. A Feb.13 article, falsely headlined "Media AWOL When Hillary Clinton Injured a Cop," falsely claimed that "Sen. Hillary Clinton injured a police officer who was manning a security post at the Westchester County Airport while she was rushing to a fundraiser." But even the article itself later states that a Secret Service agent -- not Clinton -- was behind the wheel.

NewsMax has regularly invoked the Clinton Equivocation at other critical junctures in Bush's presidency and related events:

The Valerie Plame investigation. An Oct. 27 article, issued two days before special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted former vice presidential chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges relative to the investigation of the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative, claimed that "allegations similar to those currently under consideration for indictment - as well as other potential crimes that are far more serious - were seldom if ever prosecuted during the 1990s." A September 2003 article claimed that Democrats who criticized the Plame outing didn't object "as the Clinton administration attempted to destroy one political opponent after another by illegally leaking damaging material to the media," overlooking the minor fact that alleged leak victims Paula Jones and Linda Tripp were not CIA operatives.

Hurricane Katrina. As ConWebWatch noted, Sept. 13 article claimed that President Clinton took a day longer to arrive at the scene of the 1994 Oklahoma City bombing, "his administration's biggest disaster," than Bush did to arrive in the New Orleans area following the hurricane, earning extra bonus points for dragging cult leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidian siege into the equivocation: "More children were killed in that April 19, 1993, assault than died in Oklahoma City. Yet the Clinton administration received little if any blame - and no one was forced to resign."

Pat Robertson's death threats. In response to Robertson's call for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, an Aug. 24 article claimed that "the press voiced no objection at all" in 1997 when former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos "devoted an entire column in Newsweek to the topic of whether the U.S. should take out Saddam Hussein."

Robert Novak's temper tantrum. An Aug. 5 article compared Robert Novak's profanity-laced departure from a live CNN interview with an alleged incident in which "Clinton walked out in the midst of a 1994 interview with NBC in Prague."

Karl Rove. NewsMax's way of distracting from a minor uproar over attacks by Rove, Bush's senior adviser, on Democrats over the response to terrorist attacks was to selectively quote from a post-9/11 Clinton speech to falsely portray the former president as blaming America for the attacks -- proving that NewsMax learned nothing after ConWebWatch debunked that claim when it was first made in late 2001.

Pundit payola. In order to distract from claims that conservative columnists such as Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher took money from the federal government to promote Bush administration policies without telling their readers, a Jan. 29, 2005, article falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton "helped bankroll" liberal radio network Air America and liberal radio host Ed Schultz. In fact, as the article itself states, all Mrs. Clinton did is attend a fundraiser.

Profanity by politicians. A June 2004 article noted the Washington Post's defense of using the uncensored Vice President Dick Cheney's F-word obscenity targeted to Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, then added: "And how come the Post didn't report Hillary Clinton's attack on former campaign aide Paul Fray, whom she called a 'f--king Jew bastard'?" Perhaps the Post knows about Fray's credibility problems, as ConWebWatch has documented.

Substance-abusing Bush children. Even Chelsea is targeted under the Clinton equivocation: A September 2002 article complained that "alcohol-related incidents involving first daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush have been widely and immediately covered by the mainstream press" while "[p]hotographs taken by British tabloids showing the Clintons' only daughter collapsing in a drunken stupor outside a London nightclub this spring have been embargoed by the U.S. media."

A corollary to the Clinton Equivocation is the Clinton Exception, in which allegations against a Clinton are treated differently than the same allegations made against a conservative. NewsMax excels here too. A few examples:

-- It made a regular stink about President Clinton not publicly releasing his medical records, yet has never demanded that Bush release his records, which didn't happen to any significant extent until his 2004 re-election campaign.

-- It doesn't miss a chance to remind people of every peccadillo the Clintons were involved in and a few they weren't, yet when it was pimping Jeanine Pirro's candidacy for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat (at least until Pirro's campaign imploded), it dismissed as "old news" the facts that Pirro's husband convicted of tax fraud and had fathered an out-of-wedlock child.

-- It held scandalous Bush biographer Kitty Kelley to a different standard than scandalous Clinton biographer Ed Klein, hyping purported flaws in Kelley's book while overlooking factual errors in Klein's book.

And so on.

If the Clintons didn't exist, NewsMax would have to invent them.

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