Why Hillary Ought to Shut Up

Hillary Rodham Clinton charged on yesterday's Today show that journalists should be covering the "vast right-wing conspiracy" which is aiming to move her and the President out of the White House. All three network evening news shows investigated the charge last night, with ABC and CBS both doing their best to make her wild charges [see box] sound like reasonable complaints.

Only NBC noted that this is a long-standing tactic: "Demonizing the President's accusers helps rally Democrats and distract attention from fresh charges against the President. In Clinton's case the conspiracy strategy often worked, partly because there is indeed a core group of conservatives who consider this President unfit for office." NBC also attacked the ethics of Linda Tripp's agent, Lucianne Goldberg, using as a judge of moral character....Kitty Kelley, who charged Nancy Reagan had a White House affair with Frank Sinatra.

As news organizations run self-critical stories questioning whether they've gone "too far" with too little information, perhaps they could advance the Lewinsky story by reviewing a plethora of solid recent reporting about Hillary and her legal team that may soon meet the legal definition of a conspiracy in itself:

1. Hushing Hubbell. Hillary's former law partner and friend Webster Hubbell was forced to resign in early 1994 as Associate Attorney General, the Justice Department's number-three position, for embezzling nearly a half-million dollars from the Rose Law Firm, with some of his false expense accounts signed by Mrs. Clinton. Last year, print reporters discovered Hubbell had been paid more than $400,000 from dozens of Clinton-affiliated people and companies. As the story developed in the first five months of 1997, the Big Three networks aired only ten full reports, CNN only six.

2. Kantor. Although former White House aide (and long-time Hillary ally) Mickey Kantor returned to help run the White House's Lewinsky defense team, no network has yet noted his December admission that he lied when he said he made no attempt to get jobs for Hubbell.

3. Rose Law Papers. Hubbell had taken Rose Law Firm papers on Whitewater legal matters and hidden them in his basement, which later turned up in the White House residence. That was intensely covered for a few days in anuary 1996, but no media outlet has resolved this story.

4. Ira Magaziner. Weeks ago, Judge Royce Lamberth fined the White House $286,000 for health czar Ira Magaziner's lying (at White House lawyers' direction) about the composition of Hillary's health care task force to keep meetings closed to the public. TV coverage? Zero.

5. David Pryor. While the networks combed over charges that Ken Starr was appointed through a conspiracy of North Carolina's Republican Senators, the networks have ignored Clinton friend and former Sen. David Pryor's (D-Ark.) recent private meeting with Judge Susan Webber Wright to seek the release of convicted Whitewater felon Susan McDougal from jail. Judge Wright later confessed she made a mistake in seeing him. But the "right-wing conspirators" at the major networks refused to cover it. - Tim Graham