CyberAlert -- 07/18/1996 -- Gingrich Vindicated? Not in Media
Gingrich Vindicated? Not in
One item today:
Secret Service agents testifying before a congressional committee on Wednesday (July 17) disclosed that 21 White House staffers used drugs, even crack. Sound familiar? In December 1994 Newt Gingrich was condemned for suggesting the White House had an illegal drug problem. But Wednesday night the networks failed to note the vindication of Gingrich or apologize for repudiating him.
Below you'll read:
>> The background. Appearing on Meet the Press on December 4, 1994 incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich asserted: "I had a senior law enforcement official tell me, that in his judgment, up to a quarter of the White House staff had used drugs in the last four or five years."
1994 media reaction: The media reacted with condemnation instead of investigation, putting the burden on Gingrich to defend his charge, not on the White House to answer it.
after the Meet the Press interview, on the December 5 CBS Evening News,
Dan Rather announced:
CNBC show that night (December 5) Tim Russert asked his guest, Michael
Kelly of the New Yorker, a series of questions that put the burden on
Gingrich for daring to raise the issue. Instead of suggesting that the
media might actually investigate to find out the truth, Russert raised
Gingrich's drug charge and then asked:
On CBS This Morning on December 6 Harry Smith demanded of Dick Armey: "But if you're going to make these kinds of accusations, in the words of the White House, 'false, reckless smears,' should you not be able to stand up and name names?"
1996 Reality Check: A year and a half later Congressman Bill Clinger's House committee brings in some Secret Service agents to testify about White House security procedures. NBC Nightly News put the revelations at the top of the newscast. Lisa Myers reported July 17: "The latest allegations came not from Republicans, but from non-partisan Secret Service agents responsible for protecting the President. The agents testified that the Clinton White House overruled their concerns and insisted on giving security passes to employees who admitted using illegal drugs, even crack, some within the last year."
The CBS Evening News and CNN also aired stories, but not ABC's World News Tonight, though World News Tonight and Good Morning America in 1994 aired White House condemnations of Gingrich's charge. CBS, CNN and NBC failed to show how Wednesday's news contradicted Panetta's 1994 statement or vindicated Gingrich.
On the bright side, unlike the CBS and CNN stories, Myers tied the drug revelation into the FBI file scandal, concluding her Wednesday piece: "Today's testimony raises even more questions about why the White House improperly obtained those FBI files on hundreds of Republicans. The White House explanation, that it was worried about security, seems at odds with its attitude toward staff with a history of serious drug use."
Maybe if reporters in 1994 had been a bit more interested in learning the truth and a bit less interested in repudiating Gingrich, the public wouldn't have had to wait 18 months for Bill Clinger to do the media's job. -- Brent Baker