On August 24, Ted Koppel began ABC's Nightline by noting that a vast majority of Americans didn't find it important that presidential candidate George W. Bush may have used cocaine. Koppel did not allow this to dissuade him from devoting a half-hour to unsubstantiated rumors. He editorialized:
"Why not accept his one-size- fits-all declaration that when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible? Perhaps, we might say, because he has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior. Both as campaigner and as governor of Texas, George Bush has, if anything, toughened the rhetoric and tightened the rules on youthful drug offenders. Remember now, Governor Bush has denied using drugs only since he was 28. He won't talk about what happened before then." (For more, see box.)
For all of Koppel's posturing on hypocrisy over potentially law-breaking officials, note:
Koppel has never devoted a Nightline to Juanita Broaddrick's allegations that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978.
Koppel never devoted a Nightline to Bill Clinton when he admitted using marijuana on March 29, 1992, despite the undoubtedly numerous Arkansas prisoners incarcerated for possession or use of marijuana.
On January 19, 1990, Koppel covered Washington Mayor Marion Barry's arrest for crack cocaine use by citing many of his supporters in the community and their feeling the prosecution was racist. (See box.)
Perhaps most importantly, on April 9, 1992, Koppel and Nightline joined ABC's investigation employing anonymous California state police to charge that while he was Governor, Jerry Brown allowed drug use in his home.
As Paul Sperry noted in Wednesday's Investor's Business Daily, state troopers charged Bill Clinton flew on cocaine dealer Dan Lasater's Lear jet. Trooper L.D. Brown said he escorted Clinton out of a Lasater party when cocaine came out. Other sources have alleged Clinton's use of cocaine. Nightline has never devoted a show to Clinton and cocaine, or even Clinton and Dan Lasater.
In his book Strange Bedfellows, Tom Rosenstiel noted Koppel didn't believe the Brown story, and grilled one of the anonymous sources until they "fell apart. The interview that followed was so bad [senior producer Chris] Isham had to beg Koppel to tape it again."
Koppel began by noting "This kind of story can be devastating to a man who is running for president of the United States." But Koppel has demonstrated a pattern of selective devastation. Clinton was left untouched. Koppel crippled Brown when he was Clinton's only remaining obstacle to the nomination in 1992. Now he has singled out Bush. - Tim Graham