Plain as the News on Your Face: Clinton Lies and Obstruction That TV News Has Ignored

3. Violating the Privacy Rights of Adversaries.

THE CHARGE: In June 1996, the White House admitted aide Craig Livingstone and others had collected FBI files on 338 Republican officials from past administrations. Later, the real number of files surpassed 900. In that month, the networks presented a short burst of coverage which soon dropped to nothing. Reporters echoed U.S. News & World Report writer Gloria Borger's strange defense: "This White House inspires a presumption of incompetence."

textbox3_319WHAT PRINT MEDIA REPORTED: On September 25, 1996, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) revealed a six-month gap in the log which listed who at the White House was accessing FBI background files on Republican White House employees. The Washington Times bannered the news across page one the next day. On October 4, Sen. Hatch released the deposition of White House aide Mari Anderson before the Judiciary Committee. Anderson verified that pages of the log used to record the taking of FBI files were missing. Anderson also asserted, contradicting White House aide Craig Livingstone's assurances, that Livingstone knew the Clinton White House was procuring the FBI files of Republicans. Even The Washington Post put this story on its front page the next day.

WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: This missing log could have been compared to the 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes and Nixon secretary Rose Mary Woods. Would the logs have implicated the President or First Lady in the act of illegally reviewing the files of political opponents to be used, say, in case the Republicans considered an impeachment hearing? Would the White House be able to blackmail opponents with embarrassing information? The case also underlined the Clintons' penchant for dirt-gathering on their opponents, something the press suggested was a surprise. (Borger, for one, insisted: "It is hard to believe that Craig Livingstone...was ordered by his White House superiors to get the goods on former Republican officials.") That penchant still was not emphasized when the Washington Post recently discovered the Clintons' lawyers have been using private investigators in the Paula Jones case and other controversies since 1994.

HOW TV NETWORKS COVERED IT: Not one full evening news story. (The only coverage of the FBI files log was a CNN brief on both days, and one ABC Good Morning America brief.)