Cheryl Mills: Liar, Obstructor...Heroine?

After Deputy White House Counsel Cheryl Mills defended the President before the Senate on January 20, the media touted a new star. But almost none of them mentioned that she's facing her own investigation for perjury and obstruction of justice.

On November 6, 1997, Mills admitted to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee that she and White House Counsel Jack Quinn withheld documents for 15 months, including a memo suggesting Clinton wanted the $1.7 million White House Office Data Base shared with the DNC. Last fall, Rep. David McIntosh asked the Justice Department to investigate Mills. Neither of these stories made the networks then - or now:

On the January 20 ABC World News Tonight, Jackie Judd noted Mills "ended on a personal note, challenging Republicans who have equated Paula Jones' lawsuit against Mr. Clinton with the civil rights struggle."

On that night's NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw waxed: "When Cheryl Mills, an African American lawyer, speaking to a mostly male, mostly white audience, concluded her arguments with a forceful defense of the President's record on civil rights, the note taking stopped and she had their complete attention, many of the Senators rushing up afterwards to congratulate her."

Later, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, reporter Chip Reid gave this rave review: "Then it was time for Cheryl Mills, a young White House lawyer. She's been working in the trenches at the White House on the scandal beat ever since the beginning of the Clinton presidency. This was her moment to shine and shine she did. She went through a calm, methodical performance."

On Today the next day, Pete Williams claimed: "A former colleague says there's only one reason that she would give up her anonymity by appearing in the Senate." Lanny Davis said: "I know the reason she ended up saying yes is because of her devotion to and belief in President Clinton." Williams added: "A devotion that led her to conclude her defense with an emotional tribute to the President as a champion of civil rights."

Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" crowed: "A star is born. CW predicts big-bucks law job, MSNBC analyst by end of year." Time's "Winners and Losers" boasted: "Not much riding on her first big courtroom appearance - just the President - and she aces it."

Time's Jack E. White noted the charges, but added the GOP "owes its post-Barry Goldwater resurgence to opposition to civil rights....They're too genteel for a sheet-wearing bigot like David Duke, but all too willing to embrace bigotry if it's dressed in a suit and tie. Mills, 33, is just the sort of hard-nosed advocate to drag such hypocrisy to the surface."

Time reported last March 9 on Mike McCurry: "Former White House aides fault Mills in particular for inaccurate statements McCurry has made in the past, leaving him fumbling for an explanation when the truth later emerged." Why do reporters lionize aides who advocate lying or giving nothing to reporters? - Tim Graham