MediaWatch: November 30, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 21

Who Will Contribute to Paula's Pay Day

Media Stay Silent on Clinton’s Sexual Harassment Insurance

By brushing off the Paula Jones settlement as an overdue end to one of the President’s many distractions, the networks overlooked Bill Clinton’s dubious deal with an insurance company to avoid paying Jones out of his own pocket.

The November 14 Washington Post reported: "Sources said the President’s lawyers have reached a tentative agreement with Chubb Group Insurance to buy out the personal liability policy that has covered some of his legal expenses for close to half the settlement. When all is said and done, ‘not a penny will come out of his pocket,’ said one person close to the situation."

The insurance coverage should have raised all the issues uncovered by Byron York in a 1996 American Spectator piece on how Chubb and State Farm ignored their own rules and industry norms to cover costs of the Jones suit. But the networks have never investigated that fishy tale. Only FNC’s David Shuster and NBC’s Lisa Myers noted the insurance companies’ role. Myers did not highlight the specifics of the Chubb Group deal in her brief mention: "Sources close to the President are optimistic the money will come from his insurance policies, not from the Clintons themselves."

ABC’s Jackie Judd, CBS’s Phil Jones, and CNN’s Eileen O’Connor all failed to note Clinton’s insurance policies and the simple fact that Clinton gave Jones $150,000 more than her original request to smother the case.

This is not the way these networks handled Newt Gingrich in April of 1997, when Bob Dole announced he would loan Gingrich money to help him pay a $300,000 assessment to the House Ethics Committee for the probe of his college course. On ABC, Cokie Roberts said: "It contributes to the whole view that everybody inside of Washington is in cahoots." On CNN, Steve Roberts asked: "Do we really want a Speaker of the House who owes $300,000 to a guy who’s a principal of a major lobbying firm?"

CBS anchor Paula Zahn connected the loan to current legislation: "The suggestion of some kind of tobacco connection to the Gingrich-Dole loan deal comes as the tobacco industry is reportedly working on a $300 billion deal to settle government and private health lawsuits."

Larry Klayman’s Judicial Watch has filed suit to prevent payouts from either of Clinton’s funders — the insurers and his legal defense fund. But the networks began and ended the Jones case with willful indifference to the ethical questions for Clinton.