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Time For A Group Apology

Repeat after me, ConWeb: Kenneth Lay did not sleep over at the Clinton White House.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/5/2002
Updated 3/7/2002

A lot of people who theoretically should know better got sucked into the myth that Enron then-CEO Kenneth Lay stayed overnight at the Clinton White House -- the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Washington Times, Fred Barnes, GOP operative Alex Castellanos. (Well, maybe not those last three.)

Spinsanity debunked the story (it turns out Lay stayed overnight during the White House term of George H.W. Bush) and the Daily Howler traced it to the Drudge Report (and along the way pointing out there is only one documented instance of Lay playing golf with Bill Clinton, portrayed by conservatives as an example of the alleged coziness between Enron and Clinton, and the foursome also included former Republican President Gerald Ford.)

If the mainstream media -- which generally tends to believe the worst about the Clintons -- spread the lie so easily, the ConWeb -- which already believes the worst about the Clintons so passionately that it resorts to making stuff up -- must've eaten it up, right?

Pretty much, yeah.

Related article
on ConWebWatch:

Changing the Subject

Two WorldNetDaily columnists got sucked in. The first is Paul Sperry, who wrote Feb. 12 that Clinton "hosted the Lays in White House overnights" (as well as mentioning in a Feb. 9 column that his readers should "recall that he and Clinton were golfing partners"). The other is Kyle Williams, who is "13 years old, home-schooled and lives in a rural community in America's heartland," according to the blurb at the bottom of his weekly WND column. In a Feb. 23 piece, he regurgitates the assertion he read in the Washington Times that "CEO Ken Lay was one of many to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom." (It's worth noting here that Williams' column is called "Veritas," which as his column blurb declares, is Latin for "truth.") Williams also complains that "the liberal media refuse to keep an open mind" about Clinton, which doesn't explain why the Chicago Tribune jumped on this story.

NewsMax, as one might imagine, comes up with the most interesting sourcing for its Lay-Clinton sleepover charge. "The New York Times quoted House Majority Whip Tom Delay (sic) last month as saying he saw the Enrongate villain's name on the overnight guest register at Camp David during the Clinton era," a Feb. 18 article by "Carl Limbacher and Staff" claims in the midst of justifying Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to release his energy task force records with the completely unreleated charge that the Clinton administration allegedly hasn't released the names of everyone who stayed at the White House, though NewsMax thinks it's "virtually the same issue."

NewsMax is the only organization that has mentioned this alleged DeLay statement in any of the stories on this issue, so I thought I'd double-check it. I searched Lexis-Nexis to find the DeLay statement in New York Times stories around mid-January, the time frame suggested in the article. It didn't show up, even using specific word searches with the words DeLay, Lay and Clinton. (Spinsanity did find a Feb. 1 Times article that states the myth, but not DeLay saying it. I did, however, find a Jan. 16 article detailing the thousands of dollars Enron and its executives have given to DeLay's campaigns and political action committees over the years, as well as the fact that Enron hired two former DeLay aides as lobbyists.)

An e-mail addressed to Limbacher's attention at NewsMax requesting details on the source of his allegation has gone unanswered thus far.

(Update: With a little help from a ConWebWatch reader, I found the article. The DeLay reference is from a Jan. 28 "White House Letter" article by Elisabeth Bumiller (it's not in Lexis-Nexis). But NewsMax, as they are wont to do, felt the need to embellish things a little, calling the Camp David list an "overnight guest register" when the Times article says nothing about "overnight." Camp David guest lists, of course, have nothing at all to do with White House sleepovers, and Tom DeLay is not exactly an unbiased source. NewsMax did not invent the article itself, just what it said.)

CNS, by the way, managed to keep its nose clean on this one, not having a thing in its archives about it.

So, ConWeb, here's your homework for this week: Paul Sperry and Kyle Williams need to issue corrections. And NewsMax needs to correct its misquotation of the New York Times article.

The Washington Times and Chicago Tribune have retracted their claims that Lay slept over at the Clinton White House. You should, too.

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