WaPo in 1994: Paula Jones Suit a 'Soap Opera'; WaPo in 2011: 'Lingering Questions' About Cain Must Be Answered

Worrying that there are "[t]oo many lingering questions about his conduct with women," the Washington Post editorial board complained in the November 14 edition that GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain failed to satisfactorily answer reporter Maria Bartiromo's "legitimate question" at last week's CNBC debate: "Why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?"

"If the accusations are true, they depict a man who attempted to use his position of power to coerce sexual favors from subordinates or vulnerable women," the Post lectured, concluding that "[T]he public has a right to as much information as possible to weigh the competing accounts and to make a determination about Mr. Cain's fitness for office," even if, in fact, "The truth may be impossible to discern."

But in 1994, the Post's editorial board had a decidedly different take about Paula Jones's allegations of sexual misconduct by President Bill Clinton.

On May 7, 1994 -- one day after Paula Jones filed her federal lawsuit against President Clinton --  the Post described the case as "a great embarrassment and distraction... a terrible thing" for a sitting president to have to answer in court. The Post conceded that there was "no satisfactory answer now but to get on with the judicial process in the normal way."

The Post noted that Jones alleged Clinton "subjected her to a surpassingly crude unwanted sexual advance when he was Arkansas' governor and she a state employee." Even so, nowhere in the editorial did the Post clang the alarm bells that, if true, such behavior was an abuse of power that impacts Clinton's "fitness for office."

On December 28, 1994, a federal judge ruled while that President Clinton could not be taken to court until after the president left office -- the Supreme Court ruled unanimously to the contrary in 1997-- that the Jones suit could proceed forward with depositions and other pre-trial proceedings.

In a December 30, 1994 editorial, the Post complained "this is a messy and unpleasant lawsuit that could harm Mr. Clinton and his office severely." Clinton's attorneys "will certainly want to keep this sort of testimony secret, though that will be difficult," the Post observed.

The Post failed to call on President Clinton to be as transparent as possible for the benefit of voters, even as it observed that "any good defense lawyer will contest every plaintiff's request and appeal any adverse ruling as far as possible." Paula Jones "runs a risk of being roughed up if she persists" with her lawsuit, the Post casually observed in its May 7, 1994 editorial.

By contrast, in today's editorial, the Post lamented that "It did not help that Mr. Cain's lawyer, L. Lin Wood, warned accusers to 'think twice' before coming forward" with their allegations.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters