Clubbing the "King of the Clinton Haters"

Independent Counsel Ken Starr's decision to forego an appointment as dean of Pepperdine University's law and public policy schools ruined a favorite line of Clinton spin controllers, both in the White House and the press. Nearly every national media outlet has carried allegations of collusion between Starr and conservative philanthropist Richard Scaife, who donated over $1 million to Pepperdine's public policy school (only one of several million-dollar donors). But none of them ever proved any collusion took place, or even proved that the two have ever met. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Starr's decision didn't stop the right-wing-conspiracy story line:

In the April 17 Los Angeles Times, reporter David Savage began by noting Scaife "has funded both mainstream conservative think tanks and underground attack campaigns against President Clinton.... Scaife's money also has poured into the rabidly anti-Clinton American Spectator magazine. Editor R. Emmett Tyrell [sic] Jr. relentlessly derided the new President in 1993, a vilification campaign that won Scaife's support." Savage left two misleading impressions: that Scaife still funds the Spectator; and that Scaife began funding it in 1993, instead of most of the last thirty years.

Mark Hosenball kept working the "hate" angle in the April 27 Newsweek: "The evidence linking Starr to conservative Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon Scaife...Scaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions trying to undermine the President...The White House was elated by Starr's decision to abandon Pepperdine, a tacit acknowledgment that the administration's hardball had worked."

In the April 20 issue, Jonathan Alter's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" touted the allegations of David Hale being paid off by Spectator staffers. Alter gave Starr a down arrow: "Good news: First big break in Whitewater. Bad: It may show your key witness was tainted." While Alter called allegations of $20 bills passing hands a "big break," on Wednesday's Don Imus radio show, Alter suggested Webster Hubbell's $500,000 bonanza wasn't hush money, just a set of Washington business deals.

The April 27 Time carried a caricature of Scaife with the caption: "Subsidizing probes, underwriting witnesses, chipping in for a deanship at a Malibu school, the omnipresent megamillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife owns the cashbox of the anti-Clinton crusade." Note Time didn't say "alleged underwriting of witnesses."

The April 13 Time asked: "Did the king of the Clinton haters funnel cash to Kenneth Starr's chief Whitewater witness?" Richard Lacayo wrote: "FBI officials have been inter-viewing an Arkansas woman who says that after Hale became a Whitewater witness, he began receiving cash payments from men who were connected with Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported...Scaife is to Clinton haters what the Medicis were to Michelangelo: the ultimate patron."

The April 13 U.S. News also noted the Hale charges. All the magazines ignored the Washington Times story alleging their source, Caryn Mann, said "she knew where Jimmy Hoffa was buried. She also boasted she could turn the rain on and off, and had guided U.S. forces in the Gulf War through mental telepathy." What do you know? An Arkansas woman the media spared. - Tim Graham