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The Return of the Clinton Equivocation

The Media Research Center gives Donald Trump a pass on his increasingly sleazy behavior by insisting that a Clinton did it first and worse.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/20/2016

ConWebWatch first wrote in 2006 about the Clinton Equivocation -- a ConWeb strategy that seeks to minimize wrongdoing by Republicans and conservatives by claiming that a Clinton has done it first and worse. With Hillary Clinton running for president and Republicans accused of ever-more-sleazy behavior, it's back with a vengeance.

While Newsmax was the main invoker of the Clinton Equivocation in 2006, the Media Research Center is taking the lead this time around.

It first surfaced in February to defend not Donald Trump but former GOP House Speaker Denny Hastert, sentenced earlier this year for bank fraud in connection with an attempt to cover up has apparent molestation of teens while a high school wrestling coach before starting his political career. Mark Finkelstein complained in an April 27 NewsBusters post about MSNBC host Chris Hayes discussing the case: "Chris, when you wonder the same about Bill Clinton. Did his abuse stop when he left 'the precincts' of the White House? Orgy Island, anyone?"

"Orgy Island," by the way, is a reference to Jeffrey Epstein, a political donor who is alleged to have a private island where sexual crimes were committed. Clinton reportedly flew on Epstein's plane, but there's no credible evidence thus far that Clinton took part in any inappropriate behavior.

Interestingly, Epstein has also had a relationship with Donald Trump, and a lawsuit has been filed against Trump in regard to allegations of sexual assault against her by Trump when she was 13 and allegedly part of Epstein's retinue of sex slaves. Also named in conjunction with Epstein is attorney and occasional friend of the MRC Alan Dershowitz. (Both Trump and Dershowitz have denied any Epstein-related charges against them.) Curiously, the MRC has never mentioned either Trump's or Dershowitz's ties to Epstein.

Equivocating for Trump

After Trump clinched the Republican nomination in May, it became clear that the MRC will help Donald Trump escape accountable for anything he has done in his life, no matter how terrible, because the Clintons will somehow have done something worse.

In whining that the New York Times documented Trump's long history of sexist behavior toward women -- huffing that these "unflattering" stories, "many of them 20 years old," took "five Times reporters" to cover -- Clay Waters immediately launched into the ol' Clinton Equivocation:

The Trump behavior described by the various women is immature and boorish. But did former president Bill Clinton’s sexual history or his multiple sex (and worse) scandals get this sort of front-page over-the-fold analysis? Hardly. In fact, during the 1992 campaign, the Times referred to blockbuster rape allegations made against Clinton by former Arkansas nursing home administrator Juanita Broaddrick as typical “toxic waste” and did everything it could over the years to avoid covering the story.

Waters is not telling the truth. As the Times pointed out, Broaddrick was publicly denying in 1992 there was any attack, a denial she also made under oath She later flip-flopped.

NewsBusters blogger Jack Coleman took it to the next level in a July 10 screed. He started off by unleashing venom at "McLaughlin Group" panelist Eleanor Clift, declaring that she's actually Baghdad Bob after he "apparently escaped to the United States [and] underwent sex-change surgery -- sorry, gender enhancement therapy."

What really set Coleman off on his vicious attack, though, was Clift saying that questions about Hillary Clinton's private server are "like jaywalking compared to everything Donald Trump has put out there." Coleman ranted:

Except that not a single thing Trump has "put out there" has occurred while Trump held one of the most significant positions in government, nor has any of it involved the most sensitive of national secrets. In the alt-reality inhabited by the left, Trump's hate speech is deemed far worse than Clinton's casual indifference to our security.

Is it remotely possible to believe that if Clinton and Trump were reversed in this scenario -- that it was Secretary of State Trump using a private email account, one with less security than my Gmail, even while abroad amid "hostile actors" -- that Clift would shrug it off?

While it was always unlikely that Clinton would serve time for her misdeeds, it takes an apologist of Clift's magnitude to blindly reject the indisputable justice that Clinton should never again receive a security clearance. This would render Clinton unfit as commander in chief, except for liberals like Clift who'd vote for her anyway.

So Trump's hate speech -- which Coleman apparently has no problem with -- is perfectly fine even if it ruins relations with American allies and divides Americans, so long as he didn't put on a private server? Way to lower the expectations bar for your preferred presidential candidate, Jack.

Tim Graham played the same equivocation game in a July 15 post complaining that reporters are pointing out that "Donald Trump is far worse for restricting access to reporters he doesn't like" than Hillary Clinton and how they ignore "how much more accessible Trump has been to reporters." Graham whines:

Hillary's failure to submit herself to press scrutiny likewise costs her next to nothing in the tone of her press clips. When she submits herself to interviews, they've been sappy and toothless -- see the anodyne TV questioning after the strange Comey non-indictment. The press that claims to value "independence" and "investigation" seem to think those don't apply when they cover the Clintons, and they actually hound Republicans (see Chuck Todd) when they dare to investigate Clinton scandals that the press doesn't want investigated.

The Trump aide's sorry manhandling of Michelle Fields is somewhat matched by the Clinton campaign's roping journalists like cattle. But again, they don't seem to find that embarrassing (or even worth remembering) when they compare the two candidates. Trump has been an arrogant, hypersensitive, fact-mangling candidate....and guess what? The record shows Hillary Clinton is, too.

Yes, Graham is really trying to equate denying press access to physically assaulting -- er, "manhandling" -- a member of the press. And then he claims (without proof) that Hillary is equally "an arrogant, hypersensitive, fact-mangling candidate" as Trump.

Nicholas Fondacaro did the Clinton Equivocation honors in a Sept. 20 post in an attempt to shield Trump from emerging accusations about the shady accounting of his Trump Foundation. Fondacaro is quick to give Trump a pass because, in the words of commentator Mark Halperin, "this does not involve the government, he was not a government official." That's all the license Fondacaro needed:

That is an important distinction Halperin made there, because that is what the Clinton Foundation is accused of. Recently discovered e-mails show how Clinton Foundation donors were able to obtain special meetings with Secretary Hillary Clinton, and the ability to ask for favors. Even though what Trump was alleged to have done is terrible, it is not quite up to par with having access to the US federal government.

So: Trump is "terrible," but he's not Hillary -- who by definition of being a Clinton is presumed to be always worse, regardless of the actual evidence -- so his sleaziness gets the MRC's stamp of approval, and its effective endorsement of Trump stands.

On Oct. 2, the MRC's Tim Graham embarrassed himself as a panelist on CNN's "Reliable Sources" by ranting that the media was out to get Trump. For instance, Graham's petulant response to fellow panelist John Avlon's claim that right-wing attacks on a well-sourced Times story about Trump's taxes are just "pure partisan spin": "The New York Times is pure partisan spin! ... This newspaper is trying to intimidate Trump into releasing his tax returns." When Avlon pointed out that Trump has flip-flopped on releasing taxes, Graham played the Clinton Equivocation: "Oh, and Hillary Clinton have never violated a standard?"

Trump-Clinton sex scandal equivocation
In the wake of Trump's attacks on former Miss Universe for speaking out against Trump's abusively sexist behavior, the MRC's Sarah Stites put together a slide show to feature "liberal lions that the media has downplayed," complaining that "although Trump has earned this evisceration, it’s clear to see that the media has often given a pass to worse behavior displayed by liberals or at least avoided noting their party affiliation." Stites not only gave Bill Clinton's "scandalous sexual past" its own entry, he got dinged again in a separate entry for officiating at Anthony Weiner's wedding.

When a tape of Trump saying vile things about women with then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush surfaced, the MRC's Jack Coleman previewed the MRC's defense for Trump -- the Clinton Equivocation -- in a post criticizing HBO's Bill Maher for being vulgar about Trump's vulgar remarks:

That really happened -- the guy who was president grabbing them by the p****?! That it did -- and his name was Bill Clinton. By bizarre coincidence, he's married to the Democrats' nominee for president, Trump's opponent. And it was Hillary Clinton who led the pushback to destroy the reputations of women who accused her husband of grabbing them wherever and whenever the impulse seized him. One of the women was named Monica Lewinsky and she now devotes her life to a crusade against bullying. And back in the '90s, it was the Clintons and their hacks who bullied her the worst.

But leave it to MRC chief Brent Bozell to simultaneously join Trump in the gutter. In yet another friendly appearance on Fox Business, Bozell ranted about the excess of coverage of Trump's remarks by echoing Trump and going there on 20-year-old tales about Bill Clinton's sex life:

BOZELL: If you're going to object, let's object this way. We did a little bit of analysis, and what is more important: whatever Donald Trump said, which is disgusting, or the allegation, the eminently believable allegation, that Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick and Hillary Clinton subsequently threatened Juanita Broaddrick?

You cannot argue Donald Trump is more important, yet in 17 years, you did not get as much coverage of Juanita Broaddrick as you got on Donald Trump in 48 hours. Here's another one, here's another number -- you're going to like this one. 103 minutes given about Donald Trump this weekend. How much time was given to Paula Jones when she filed a lawsuit that said that the President of the United States took his pants down in front of her and told her to kiss it? 103 minutes on Donald Trump, 16 seconds, Paula Jones.

That last tidbit came from the end of Rich Noyes' comparative-coverage item complaining that Trump's lewd remarks than about the contents of emails stolen from Clinton's campaign by WikiLeaks. The Jones coverage Bozell and Noyes cited is from February 1994 -- 22 years ago, making this the ultimate apples-and-oranges comparison.

When the TV show "Family Guy" worked the infamous Trump tape into a recent episode of the show, the MRC's Erik Soderstrom was not pleased -- though, being a family website, Soderstrom did not embed the video of the scene, though he was effectively admitting that his preferred candidate was too filthy for prime time -- and worked in a rather lame Clinton Equivocation as well: "I won’t hold my breath for a Family Guy flashback placing one of the show’s characters in the room when Hillary donned her best, fake African American accent and screeched, 'I don’t feel no ways tired.' I don’t anticipate seeing them work the audio of Hillary chuckling about her defense of a child rapist and subsequent plea bargain into a character’s memories. When Hollywood makes in-kind donations, they always seem to end up on one side of the aisle."

The MRC is simply incapable of criticizing a fellow conservative, it seems, unless it can seek cover by dragging a Clinton into it.

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