MediaWatch: May 18, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 7

ABC's of Helping Hubbell

Former CBS News Washington correspondent Linda Douglass, now with ABC News, had a very unusual relationship with convicted embezzler Webster Hubbell: She and her husband John Phillips were close friends with Hubbell and his wife Suzy. In the May American Spectator, Byron York revealed that Phillips arranged for a consulting deal to cushion Hubbell, that Douglass and her husband paid for the Hubbells to join them on a Greek vacation and that Hubbell talked on the phone to Douglass from prison.

Douglass, a long-time Los Angeles television reporter, and her lawyer husband are old friends with Clinton buddy Mickey Kantor. While working on the 1992 campaign Kantor invited Douglass and Phillips to Little Rock where they met the Hubbells. In January 1993, York reported, they moved to Washington where Douglass landed a position with CBS News. The couple began having Kantor and Hubbell, whose wives remained in Arkansas, over for dinner. When their spouses arrived they joined in the frequent gatherings.

Following Hubbell's March 1994 resignation from his position as Associate Attorney General to face charges of embezzling from the Rose Law Firm, Phillips arranged for the Consumer Support and Education Fund, which he helped establish, to pay Hubbell $45,000 to write an essay on public service. "In August," York recounted, "the two families flew to Greece for a vacation." Phillips told House investigators that the couples agreed Phillips "would use his frequent flyer miles to purchase plane tickets for Webb and Suzy Hubbell, and the Hubbells would buy a full-fare ticket for Phillips's daughter. Phillips also paid to rent a boat on which the couples spent ten days visiting the Greek islands."

By December Hubbell had pled guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges. He never produced the essay, forcing Phillips to pay the $45,000 back to the foundation. Nonetheless, "even after Hubbell went to prison, Phillips and his wife kept in touch with their disgraced friend." Phillips visited and "Douglass also talked with Hubbell from prison" by phone.

Eventually, they lost faith. Douglass told York she had aided Hubbell "in a time of need. 'I went to church with Webb,' Douglass remembered. 'I was trying to help him with his personal redemption.' But Hubbell could not be saved. Of the end of the friendship, Douglass said curtly, 'Look, we were lied to.'"

If only a few more in the media would realize Hubbell has no credibility.