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MediaWatch: August 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 8

A Times Warp

After revelations of Democratic wrongdoing at the Senate fund- raising hearings, the New York Times editorial page hit the party with withering sarcasm. The July 16 page detailed the revelation that $50,000 from the Lippo Group sent to John Huang made its way to the DNC in 1992 and observed: "So much for the commentators who spent last weekend assuring the country that there was nothing to be learned from these hearings." 

What commentators? The New York Times, for one. Three days earlier, reporter Richard L. Berke wrote an analysis headlined: "A Scandal Falls Victim to Its Own Irrelevance." Berke saw no use to the hearings unless they resulted in more regulation: "So the public may be at peace with the notion that the campaign- finance system is flawed, even corrupt, and that it will never be fixed so long as that is left to the politicians who relied on the system to get elected in the first place." On July 14, Lizette Alvarez wrote the hearings "had been fat on grandstanding and innuendo and skimpy on details and corroborative evidence."

On July 16 the Senate committee found that Huang's boss at Commerce considered him "unqualified" and recommended he be "walled off" from China issues. The next day the Times editorial page reviled the Democrats' obstructionist tactics: "While Robert Torricelli tries to remember his birthday and John Glenn jokes about his astrological sign, more serious members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee kept getting several lessons a day in the operation of the most reckless presidential fundraising operation in recent history."

Then Times reporters struck again. In a July 19 front-page story headlined "Smoke, but No Gun," David E. Rosenbaum found little amiss: "No evidence was offered showing that Mr. Huang had been hired by the Commerce Department in a way any different from the way hundreds of other patronage appointments have been made by this and other presidential administrations."

Rosenbaum even hinted the Republican Senators were modern-day McCarthyites: "The chasm between the circumstantial evidence presented and the suspicions raised was so large that the Democratic Senators were able to respond by saying the Republicans had breached the line between inference and innuendo."