MediaWatch: August 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 8

CNN Barely Touched Willey, But...

Pounced on Mayor Giuliani

CNN pounced on news that a Vanity Fair article charged New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) was having an affair. But the network ignored a Newsweek story about Kathleen Willey, the White House staffer subpoenaed by lawyers for Paula Jones.

CNN's Inside Politics on July 31 placed the subpoena last on the show. The World Today gave 26 seconds to how Willey is "fighting efforts to drag her into the Paula Jones case."

Jump to Monday, August 4. Inside Politics devoted half the show to Giuliani. After a taped piece, Judy Woodruff interviewed Jennet Conant of Vanity Fair. Bernard Shaw talked with The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz and Newsday's Leonard Levitt. Shaw assumed the media had suppressed the Giuliani story: "President Clinton's private life versus Mayor Giuliani's private life. Double standard on the part of the media?" Both guests agreed.

The same day the August 11 Newsweek detailed how Willey had been a White House volunteer, but when her husband was accused of embezzlement she went to Clinton to ask about a paying job. Reporter Michael Isikoff revealed that "Linda Tripp, then an executive assistant in the White House counsel's office, recalls bumping into Willey" after she had left Clinton. "Willey was 'disheveled. Her face was red and her lipstick was off. She was flustered, happy and joyful'....According to Tripp, Willey said the President had taken her from the Oval Office to his private office...and kissed and fondled her. She was not in any way 'appalled,' Tripp told Newsweek."

Willey's husband committed suicide, leading Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett to say that "Clinton may have consoled her around the time of her husband's death, but it is 'preposterous' to suggest that Clinton might have made a sexual advance." Isikoff, however, discovered that "Ed Willey's body was not found until the day after the alleged encounter."

That night The World Today ran a two minute story on Giuliani, but neither that day nor anytime that week did the show cite the Newsweek details. "Nothing makes headlines like sex and politics," anchor Joie Chen declared. Except if it involves Bill Clinton.