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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Whitlock Misleads on Attorney Firings (Update)
Topic: NewsBusters

A March 13 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock complained that ABC reported on the apparently politically motivated firings of several federal prosecutors by the Bush administration, but "when President Clinton fired 93 attorneys at the beginning of his first term, ABC never mentioned the story."

But the two situations are not analogous. Clinton replaced all federal prosecutors upon entering office, and Whitlock notes no evidence that Clinton was retaliating against any or all of them for specific reasons, other than repeating the MRC's own contemporanous speculation that "Clintonites made the move to take U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens off the House Post Office investigation of Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski." Meanwhile, the Bush administration's firing of several prosecutors comes in the middle of Bush's second term, and evidence is mounting that they were let go for partisan reasons -- prosecuting too many Republicans and not enough Democrats.

Whitlock did not note whether ABC reported President Bush's similar firing of most U.S. attorneys when he took office in 2001 -- a much more analogous situation to Clinton's -- nor did he even mention that Bush, in fact, did fire those prosecutors. Whitlock also failed to mention another analogous situation: the Washington Post's report that the Bush administration considered replacing all federal prosecutors in 2005.

UPDATE: Brent Bozell's March 13 column makes the same misleading conflation, with the added deception of mentioning nothing about why the Bush firings have become a controversy. Like Whitlock, Bozell also fails to mention that like Clinton, Bush replaced most U.S. attorneys when he took office and considered replacing them all again in 2005.

This stuff's coming on quite suddenly. Was there, like, some meeting among the Conservative Elite earlier this week to hammer out this meme (and to ignore its logical inconsistency)?

UPDATE 2: It would appear so -- and Fox News sat in on it. Brent Baker, in a new post, praised Brit Hume for "scolding his media colleagues for how 'news stories reporting that the Bush administration had considered firing all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country [in 2005] failed to mention that that is exactly what Bill Clinton did soon after taking office back in 1993.' " Of course, this is another misleading comparison: Bush's proposal of replacing all the attorneys that he himself had appointed four years earlier was something that not even Clinton did.

However, it may be the closest we get to the MRC admitting that Bush followed in Clinton's footsteps on this issue. 

UPDATE 3: Another post by Baker falsely conflates Clinton's attorney replacement with the current round of Bush's replacements (and doesn't report that Bush did the same thing Clinton did in 2001 and thought about doing it in 2005).

None of these NewsBusters posts, by the way, mention the current circumstances under which the attorneys are being replaced -- under a provision snuck into the USA Patriot Act reauthorization that allows the Justice Department to appoint interim prosecutors without district court or congressional authorization. That's not a power Clinton had.

Posted by Terry K. at 4:57 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 11:42 PM EDT

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