The Newsmax Democrat
For a self-proclaimed "lifelong Democrat," Jerry Zeifman sure spends a good chunk of his time bashing his alleged fellow Dems on the ConWeb.
By Terry Krepel
One knock against Fox News' claim to be "fair and balanced" is that the Democrats that appear on the network are at best ineffectual advocates for their viewpoint -- or at least not as aggressive as the conservatives Fox News airs -- and, at worst, helping to make whatever argument those conservatives are making. They even have a name -- Fox News Democrats.
Newsmax engages in similar behavior. Its few liberal-leaning writers fall into a similar pattern of ineffective spokesmen. One, regular columnist Susan Estrich, is an actual Fox News Democrat, described by Salon.com as among "the losers, the strategists and politicians who are no longer players in the Democratic Party, at least partially because of their electoral failures." Another regular columnist, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, an ostensible Democrat who voted for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 and has been highly critical of fellow Democrat Barack Obama, calling support for him "the wrong judgment."
Let's call Estrich and Koch Newsmax Democrats. Which brings us to Jerry Zeifman.
Zeifman's arguably lone claim to fame was that he served as chief counsel of the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal. After that, Zeifman's Democratic bona fides become a little hazy, if not entirely non-existent. Zeifman is the author of a book called "Without Honor: Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of President Nixon," in which he claims, according to a 1996 Washington Post review, that "Kennedy loyalists" such as Hillary Rodham obstructed the Nixon impeachment to protect the reputation of John Kennedy. The Post called the book "an unconvincing, if imaginative, tale of intrigue." Right-wingers like Judicial Watch and WorldNetDaily have echoed Zeifman's conspiracy theories; WND's Joseph Farah asserted in 1998 that "No less a distinguished attorney and scholar than Jerome Zeifman, a Democrat and former chief counsel for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings, sees at least three counts of bribery that should be leveled against Clinton."
WND published numerous commentaries by Zeifman; a June 1999 column appeared to liken Bill Clinton to Slobodan Milosevic, stating that "the defense of our president against impeachment and the support for the war against Yugoslavia is also giving more and more peoples of the world the impression that our commander in chief is mentally deranged or morally flawed -- and in league with the manufacturers of bombs and missiles." Another June 1999 commentary claimed:
Today, some conservatives believe that both ["The Feminine Mystique" author] Betty Friedan and Hillary Clinton are part of a radical left-wing conspiracy. A not-inconsistent theory can also be advanced that both Betty and Carl Friedan were likewise part of a profit-making scheme to over-inflate our economy. They realized that the more women went to work, the more wages would be lowered. Likewise, the more divorces, the greater the demand for separate housing, cars, appliances, etc.
In an April 1999 WND column, Zeifman sounded very much like a Republican when he wrote, "These days there are at least two classes of Americans who remain unprotected by rules of political correctness: conservative Republican women like Laura Ingraham (a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas); and white 'good ol' boys' like House impeachment manager Lindsey Graham."
Zeifman wrote a 1996 Clinton-bashing commentary for the Wall Street Journal that began with his declaration of being "a life-long Democrat and chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee." That's a refuge Zeifman regularly takes -- despite the fact there's little actual evidence that Zeifman is the Democrat he claims to be.
Zeifman became a Newsmax Democrat in January 2006, penning an attack on Ted Kennedy for allegedly "misusing his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to achieve self-serving partisan ends." Not only does "Former Democratic Chief Counsel" appear in the headline, the tagline describes him as a "lifelong Democrat," and Zeifman himself isn't even five words into his commentary before he insists that he is "a Democrat and former chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee." In October 2006, Zeifman praised Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who had lost the Democratic nomination and was running as an independent to keep his seat. This time, Zeifman managed to hold out until the third paragraph before declaring himself a "life-long Democrat."
In December 2006, Zeifman returned to eulogize the late Republican President Gerald Ford as "the most nonpartisan and ethical president in my life time" and attack "the current left wing of our Democratic Party." Again, Zeifman began by touting his Democratic ties: "When the confirmation of Jerry Ford to be vice president was pending in the House Judiciary Committee I, as a Democrat, was in charge of an investigation that found him highly qualified."
In April 2007, Zeifman bashed Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, claiming she was engaging in "an unconstitutional abuse of power that warrants her removal by our Democratic caucus." His "lifelong Democrat" declaration slipped to the second paragraph.
Zeifman surfaced once more in 2008 to do more Clinton-bashing. In a Feb. 5 Accuracy in Media column, Zeifman wrote:
I have just seen Hillary Clinton and her former Yale law professor both in tears at a campaign rally here in my home state of Connecticut. Her tearful professor said how proud he was that his former student was likely to become our next President. Hillary responded in tears.
Zeifman, in fact, did not see this. As Media Matters detailed, the photo Zeifman supplied of Clinton purportedly "in tears" was not taken during the introduction by her "tearful professor," as a video of the introduction demonstrates. The original Associated Press caption on the photo described Clinton as "wiping her eye and sipping water to get her cough under control" -- not crying during the introduction.
Zeifman also claimed: "My own reaction was of regret that, when I terminated her employment on the Nixon impeachment staff, I had not reported her unethical practices to the appropriate bar associations." -- a claim Zeifman repeated in a March 31 column by Dan Calabrese at the right-wing North Star Writers Group. This time, the claim was echoed by NewsBusters' John Stephenson.
WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, not only reprinted another Calabrese article based on Zeifman's dubious accusation, it tried to go one step further by claiming in an April 7 article that "Details of Hillary Clinton's firing from the House Judiciary Committee staff for unethical behavior as she helped prepare articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon have been confirmed by the panel's chief Republican counsel."
Except that most of them weren't. The article stated that "Franklin Polk backed up major claims by Jerry Zeifman, the general counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee who supervised Clinton's work on the Watergate investigation in 1974." According to the article, "Polk confirmed Clinton wrote a brief arguing Nixon should not be granted legal counsel due to a lack of precedent."
In fact, the article did not claim that Polk backed any of Zeifman's "major claims" -- that Clinton's brief was "fraudulent," that "Clinton deliberately ignored the then-recent case of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who was allowed to have a lawyer during the impeachment attempt against him in 1970," that "Clinton bolstered her fraudulent brief by removing all of the Douglas files from public access and storing them at her office, enabling her to argue as if the case never existed," and that "Clinton was collaborating with allies of the Kennedys to block revelation of Kennedy-administration activities that made Watergate 'look like a day at the beach.'"
Indeed, the article states only that "Polk confirmed the Clinton memo ignored the Douglas case, but he could not confirm or dispel the claim that Hillary removed the files," adding that Polk considered Clinton's alleged exclusion of the Douglas precedent "more stupid than sinister."
Neither WND nor NewsBusters have reported on Zeifman's contradictory claims about firing Clinton.
Lacking a Clinton to kick around after Barack Obama clinched the Democratic presidential nomination (and never quite getting around to reconciling his contradictory claims), Zeifman tried to find another issue to glom onto. In a June 10 Accuracy in Media column about former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's unflattering memoir of his years in the Bush White House, Zeifman stated that coverage of McClellan permitted him to indulge in "some painful remembrances of past treasons." Zeifman claimed without evidence that McClellan's book "gives aid and comfort to the enemy" but lamented that "it is unlikely that a jury would find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the felony defined in the U.S. Criminal Code."
While he was doing all this, Zeifman has been doing something else for Newsmax: channeling Eleanor Roosevelt.
A Dec. 19, 2007, column claimed that "Mrs. Roosevelt came to me in a dream, and I questioned her as to her views on the candidates for president in 2008." Unsurprisingly, the words put in Eleanor's mouth sound a lot like Zeifman's -- things like "I am tempted to say, “Anyone but Hillary!” If she wins the nomination I would vote for a conservative Republican. Also, she is by far the easiest candidate for a Republican to beat." And ol' Eleanor seems to keep up with events in the non-spectral world and reading conservative-leaning publications: "As you will recall, during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, former Watergate prosecutor Henry Ruth, a lifelong Democrat, published an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled 'Clinton Has Corrupted His Party's Soul.'"
Zeifman performed this feat again in a July 22 column in which Zeifman -- er, Roosevelt says, "I am dismayed by the recent refusal of the Times to publish an article by Sen. McCain in rebuttal to its prior Op-Ed article by Sen. Obama advocating time tables for troop withdrawals from Iraq. However, I am not surprised." Roosevelt also now "says" that "I now wholeheartedly support Sen. McCain."
Why, Roosevelt even spouts misleading conservative talking points, such as that Obama "was first on the National Journal's approval voting list of doctrinaire Democratic party liners." We suspect that the real Mrs. Roosevelt, unlike Zeifman, would have done some actual research before making such a claim; if so, she would know that National Journal's rankings are based on a subjective listing of votes and that a more comprehensive study of Obama's votes rank him 10th most liberal.
But shoddy research of the words he puts into Mrs. Roosevelt's mouth doesn't keep Zeifman from hauling out the poor woman to spout whatever right-wing talking point he must push that day. He pulls this stunt yet again in an Aug. 6 column to discuss ... oil prices?
Yes, Eleanor appears quite conversant about the history of British Petroleum, including events that happened well after her death: "In 1969, British Petroleum discovered oil on the Alaskan north slope. Soon thereafter it acquired Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) and operates in Alaska under that company's name. By 1982 Sohio's American operations provided almost 80 percent of the BP world wide profits." And Zeifman's puppet once again endorses McCain: "I am confident that, as president, John McCain, who proudly describes himself as a 'progressive Theodore Roosevelt Republican,' will have the spine to enter into a nonpartisan coalition to nationalize domestic oil production as a means of preserving our national security and environment."
Any claim that the real Eleanor Roosevelt would hold such views if she were alive today is a specious as Zeifman's claim to be a "lifelong Democrat."