Author Trashes Choice of Nina Burleigh As Clinton Book Reviewer

One day after former Time reporter Nina Burleigh warned against the "cruelty" of evaluating the Clinton marriage in a book review of Sally Bedell Smith's For Love of Politics for The Washington Post, Sally Smith showed up for an online chat at washingtonpost.com on Friday afternoon and promptly trashed the Post's taste in book reviewers:

I [w]as quite stunned that the Post assigned someone to review my book who had so discredited herself when it comes to the Clintons. Nearly a decade ago Nina Burleigh wrote that while she was a reporter for TIME magazine in the early 90s she had been sexually aroused by what she described as Bill Clinton's ogling of her during a game of cards. She said that if he had asked her to his motel room she would have been "quite willing to let myself be ravished by the President." She followed up that unprofessional confession by telling a reporter that she would be "happy to give [Bill Clinton oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal." Her comments were the talk of Washington, and one of her sharpest critics was my friend, the late Marjorie Williams, to whom I dedicated my book. As Marjorie wrote in Slate, "It's one thing to use your sex, as female journalists are wise to do in covering the heavily male culture of politics. It's another to try to have sex with your subjects." In her review Burleigh didn't even come to grips with the enormous consequences of Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. As one close friend of the Clintons' described it to me, "It was the [oral sex] that changed history...It is like a very very bright light you can't look at. There is no doubt that if Bill Clinton had kept his zipper up north instead of down south, Al Gore would have been elected president. That is a big deal." Burleigh offers no basis for her opinions about Hillary's love for Bill, or for her dismissal of the fact, repeated over and over to me by those close to the Clintons, that a love of politics has been the essential glue keeping their turbulent marriage together. As Senator Pat Moynihan used to say, "you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts." My book is a textured portrait of the Clintons strengthened by the cumulative power of facts.

At the beginning of her answer, the author was referring to an article Burleigh wrote for the women's magazine Mirabella (the July/August 1998 issue) on how she would have been willing to have sex with President Clinton. As a Time freelancer, she traveled with Bill to a funeral in Jasper, Arkansas, and they played cards and she found him admiring her legs. Here's a Burleigh sample from what Brent Baker reported at the time:

No doubt the President’s lawyers and spin doctors would say I wishfully imagined that long, appreciative look, just as all those other women have fantasized their more explicitly sexual encounters with Clinton. But we all know when we’re being ogled. The weird thing was that I didn’t mind. There was a time when the hormones of indignant feminism raged in my veins. An open gaze like that, at least from a man of lesser stature, would have annoyed me. But that evening, I had the opposite reaction. I felt incandescent. It was riveting to know that the President had appreciated my legs, scarred as they were. If he had asked me to continue the game of hearts back in his room at the Jasper Holiday Inn, I would have been happy to go there and see what happened. At the time, that seemed quite possible. It took several hours and a few drinks in the steaming and now somehow romantic Arkansas night to shake the intoxicated state in which I had been quite willing to let myself be ravished by the President, should he have but asked. I probably wore the mesmerized look I have seen again and again in women after they have met him. The same silly hypnotized gleam was displayed on the cover of Time magazine in Monica Lewinsky’s eyes....And yet there I was, walking away from a close encounter with the President of the United States, stupefied and vaguely hoping that he’d send an aide over to my hotel room to ask me up for a drink. What is it in some of us, that powerful men make us pliant and willing with a mere glance?

It's hard to imagine how a reporter would claim they could be utterly dispassionate and fair as they fantasize about Bill Clinton ravishing them.

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