Christopher Ruddy's supposed moderation on the Clintons obscures the fact that NewsMax remains a prime source for vitriolic anti-Clinton attacks.
By Terry Krepel
Is Christopher Ruddy really chilling out about the Clintons?
The New York Times reported in a Feb. 19 article that Ruddy and his NewsMax benefactor, Richard Mellon Scaife -- funder of the infamous "Arkansas Project" designed to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton -- have had a "rethinking" of the Clinton presidency:
"Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today."
Ruddy repeated his claims about the Clintons in a March 2 London Times article:
"She’s moderated her image. She's tougher on the War on Terror and she has not aligned herself with the antiwar Left. Some conservatives think she’s not all bad," said Christopher Ruddy, who runs NewsMax, America’s biggest conservative online magazine.
One place you will not read Ruddy's comments is NewsMax; neither of the these articles were reproduced or excerpted there. Instead, what NewsMax readers saw was a Feb. 27 column by Ruddy in which, while he admitted that "the '90s were good years for America, and Bill Clinton can share in some of the credit ... a large amount of the credit is due to Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America Republicans who stormed Capitol Hill in 1994 and overthrew decades of Democratic waste and runaway spending."
Ruddy claimed that "[t]here is a dark side to the Clinton years, however. For one thing, scandal after scandal plagued the president," not mentioning that he was among those ginning up "scandal after scandal" -- that is, if one considers things like Bill Clinton's alleged love child and Chelsea Clinton's alleged plastic surgery "scandals." He then recited the discredited claim that Clinton "admitted he had the opportunity to get bin Laden before he left the Sudan in 1996, but declined an offer from the Sudanese to turn him over to the United States."
So it appears Ruddy really hasn't moderated his views on the Clintons at all -- certainly not to the extent the New York Times and London Times interviews suggest. Further evidence that it's still business as usual: NewsMax remains a significant repository of anti-Clinton vitriol with a significant stable of anti-Clinton writers.
Chief among them is Dick Morris, Clinton adviser turned Clinton hater (he was bounced from the administration in 1996 after getting caught with a toe-sucking hooker) who Ruddy credited in his column for Clinton's success over Clinton himself for advising the president "to govern from the middle, embrace welfare reform, and work with the Republicans." In his NewsMax columns, Morris eagerly and repeatedly bashes the Clintons in general and Hillary's presidential campaign in particular:
Nowhere in these columns does Morris disclose that he's actively working against Hillary's candidacy, which casts a shadow on the veracity of his political analysis. In January, Morris was soliciting donations to finance an anti-Hillary film documentary, citing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as a precedent: "If you liked how the Swift Boat Veterans turned the tide against John Kerry, you understand how a top Clinton aide can turn the tables and stop a Clinton-style liberal from becoming the next president of the United States."
Mention of Morris' activism was relegated to a Feb. 1 article by Ronald Kessler that repeats another false claim about Hillary: that she told NBC "Today" host Jane Pauley that "when the two airplanes hit the World Trade Center [on 9/11], her daughter Chelsea was at Battery Park near the towers." In fact, Hillary told Pauley that Chelsea "was going to go around the towers," not that Chelsea was actually there at the time the planes hit.
Another Clinton-hater on NewsMax's staff is columnist John LeBoutillier, chief promoter of the now-abandoned Counter Clinton Library -- to which Morris had pledged to donate his Clinton-era "secret White House Agendas" -- and currently treasurer of the Stop Hillary PAC, which, like Morris, cited the Swift Boat Veterans as a role model: "Those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were the real heroes of the 2004 election. We at the StopHillaryPAC want to do the same thing to Hillary." As of March, the Stop Hillary PAC was behind on filing its fundraising records with the Federal Election Commission.
With that kind of background, it's no suprise that LeBoutillier isn't exactly shy about running down the Clintons:
Yet another anti-Clinton NewsMax columnist is Stephen R. Smith, who's practically drooling over the idea of partaking in some old-school Clinton-bashing. His Dec. 19 column is an example of this moldy rummaging.
FBI files? Yep: "It served Hillary and her hit squad to snatch the FBI files and rifle through the lives of potential opponents."
The "body count"? Gotcha: "There is also that nagging problem about the body count she has left behind. Vince Foster, Moctar Riady, Johnny Chung, Charlie 'yah-lin' Trie, John Huang, Ron Brown, and Webster Hubbell come to mind."
Chinagate? You betcha: "Mrs. Clinton has a few of her own pictures to live down, including one with convicted "Chinagate" figure Moctar Riady, and a photo of her with convicted cocaine smuggler Jorge Cabrera in front of the White House Christmas tree."
Even Smith appeared to get bored by the whole thing, so he shifted into greatest-hits-medley mode: "I can hardly list her repeated scandals in a single article: For example dealing in cattle futures, firing the White House travel office, messing with health care, smearing hubby's girlfriends, blaming the far right for all her problems, and missing Rose office records reappearing out of a wormhole in time/space."
Smith then suggested that one way for Hillary to be elected president "would be for Bill Clinton to die. No one would dare oppose the mourning widow. Not a whisper would be issued about Riady money, Chinese generals, or Monica." He then quickly adds: " Don't get me wrong. I would willingly take a bullet for Bill Clinton if only to protect my financial interests in writing about his future scandals."
Smith has been keeping the Clinton-hating pace ever since, continuing to write about long-past, overblown scandals.
NewsMax's anti-Clinton bias shows up in its "news" coverage as well. For instance, in an April 12 article claiming that Hillary Clinton "will try to make more political hay out of the Don Imus controversy by visiting Rutgers University," NewsMax heaped more scorn on Hillary by using anonymous blog commenters to attack her, pulling choice quotes such as "The Queen of Pander strikes again" and "Maybe she'll go to Duke University next?"
NewsMax has also been promoting Clinton-bashing books, such as R. Emmett Tyrrell's "The Clinton Crack-Up." Tyrrell's book was graced with a rapturous review by Paul Crespo ("immensely informative and highly readable") and a giveaway of it with new subscriptions to NewsMax's magazine -- hard evidence that NewsMax still believes there are profits to be made from Clinton-hating. A March 28 interview by Phil Brennan tossed a bushelful of mean-spirited softball questions Tyrrell's way:
Tyrrell responded by claiming Bill Clinton is "on a par with Anna Nicole Smith" for being a celebrity "because of his wrongdoing" and adding, "I did compare [Hillary] to Mussolini in the book. At least she has nicer hair."
If Ruddy is contradicting himself by continuing to promulgate Clinton-bashing propaganda, so is Richard Mellon Scaife. Media Matters reported that an anonymous April 15 column in the Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review compared Clinton to Lady Macbeth and three of her supporters, Geraldine Ferraro, Madeleine Albright, and Billie Jean King, to the "three hags -- witches" in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" who, according to the column, "aided" Lady Macbeth.
Expect other Democrats to get the Clinton treatment at NewsMax. In fact, Barack Obama has already been the target of a pair of columns by Andy Martin, a self-proclaimed "Internet journalist" of questionable mental health who is hurling bizarre accusations against Obama. In a March 28 column, Martin declared that Obama has locked away his white grandmother, in "one of the cruelest and most mendacious political kidnappings this nation has ever seen," in order to not interfere with "Obama's racist myth that he is 'Black' and not 'Black and White.' " Never mind the fact that the 84-year-old grandmother has informed the New York Times that she is "not well enough to speak." An April 3 column suggested that Obama supports the idea of slavery reparations because he has endorsed a candidate for Chicago alderman who supports reparations. Martin also called Obama's supporters "ignorant suckers."
Amazingly, NewsMax has declared its support for Martin's outlandish claims; a March 30 article proudly noted that Martin's assertions about Obama's grandmother "has created a firestorm across the Web."
Ultimately, this seems to be what all it boils down to: NewsMax's desire to gain attention to itself through ludicrous claims and overheated rhetoric taking precedence over solid, balanced, factual reporting.
As a result, Clinton-hating 2.0 is looking a lot like the first version. NewsMax still believes that Clinton-bashing pays, even if Ruddy and Scaife look like liars in the process by feigning a lack of interest in doing it.