The American Spectator Was 'Empty-Handed' on Clinton Scandals?

Monday’s Washington Post carried a long, splashy article on the divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife, major conservative philanthropist (and backer of the MRC, truth be told). The joy in Scaife’s misfortune was hardly hidden. The headline was “Low Road to Splitsville: Right-Wing Publisher's Breakup Is Super-Rich In Tawdry Details.” Reporter David Segal’s article began and ended with the gimmick that the divorce was so entertaining that you should literally pack a lunch and travel to Pittsburgh to watch it. Most of the details were personal, except for this bizarre paragraph about Scaife’s alleged philanthropic failures:

When he isn't tending to this modest publishing empire, he's underwriting what Hillary Clinton once called "a vast right-wing conspiracy." His highest-profile expenditure is the $2.3 million he gave the American Spectator magazine in the mid-'90s, to try to unearth prurient and embarrassing details about Bill Clinton's years as governor of Arkansas. (The magazine came up virtually empty-handed.)

Segal, who is one of a pack of liberal media elitists who began his career at the "neoliberal" magazine The Washington Monthly, cannot be serious. Anyone who goes back and looks into what caused the impeachment of President Clinton begins with the Spectator's 1993 expose on "Troopergate" -- how Clinton used state troopers to acquire sexual conquests -- for that story spurred the sexual harassment lawsuit of Paula Jones. (She was portrayed by the Spectator as a willing bimbo simply named "Paula.") The Jones lawyers found Monica Lewinsky, the President lied about a sexual relationship with her, and the rest is Clinton scandal history, including Clinton admitting his sexual harassment of Jones with a nearly million-dollar financial settlement. That's hardly coming up "empty-handed." It does, however, explain the Post's effervescent schadenfreude over the Scaife divorce. Segal sounds like he was writing for the Travel section, as if he's going on a safari to watch crazy right-wingers in their natural habitat:

Looking for a perfect little weekend vacation this fall? Here's a travel tip you don't hear very often: Head to Pittsburgh. Right away. Seriously, get in the car and read this story later, because when you're done reading, you'll wish you'd left 10 minutes ago. There are towns with better vistas, sure, and there are getaways with more sunshine. But only Pittsburgh is the scene of the fabulously tawdry and surpassingly vicious spectacle that is the divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife.

After milking all the gossip from motels and Scaife's deceased relatives, Segal concluded:

So, plenty to see, and truth be told, plenty of time to see it. A final settlement could easily be a year away, and the meanness, for all we know, has just begun. Which is why the Scaife Divorce Tour of Pittsburgh could be the ultimate family vacation. If it doesn't bring your family together -- in mutual horror, in a group hug that says "we don't have it that bad" -- nothing will.

Segal even tried so hard to be cheeky that he included a text box about visiting "the landmarks of the Scaife divorce," the retailers favored by the second Mrs. Scaife, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Tim Condron Designs, Salon DeStefino, and a high-end florist going by the name Toadflax.The Washington Post, a liberal, Clinton-loving newspaper? It's as obvious as the smiles all over the Style section today.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis