Caller to NPR Attacks Media for Downplaying Democrat Sex Scandals, And Reporters Deny, Deny, Deny

On Friday’s edition of the Diane Rehm show on many NPR stations, a conservative-leaning caller, identified as “Frank from St. Louis” lit into “you guys in the mainstream press” for ignoring and/or delaying sex scandals about liberal Democrats, but leaping on the Herman Cain allegations, no matter how fuzzy.

What “Frank” got in return from the three journalists on the “Friday News Roundup” panel was denial, denial, and denial. They said there was “no evidence” of a double standard. Obviously, someone needs to look at the MRC’s 63-to-7 numbers on Cain vs. three of Clinton’s sex scandals.

 

First, here's how the caller saw it:

FRANK: I tell you, I'm not a Herman -- I wasn't a Herman Cain supporter, but this is making me one because of the way you guys in the mainstream press is treating this. I'm old enough -- I think all of you are, maybe -- to remember when the first allegations came out about Clinton, during primaries, about him using public resources, police, to go get women who were also public employees, Paula Jones and a whole bunch of other women.

Those allegations rumbled underneath the surface for a long time, sometimes six, seven months, even a year. The mainstream media completely ignored that. They treated it like, oh, this is just right wing fanatics going after Clinton, blah, blah, blah. Same thing with Edwards. He was the champion of the poor and the middle class, and we can't pay attention to this scandal. It took about a year before that thing ever really became off the ground.

What happens with Herman Cain, the very next day after unsourced -- unnamed sources about something that happened many years ago -- same thing, maybe there's something or maybe there isn't. But the way that press has treated this is incredibly telling. And I'm telling you, you know, it's -- this high-tech lynching thing. I hate the race card, but they don't think he's legitimate because he doesn't have the background. Oh, he's way more experienced than Obama was at this time when Obama ran.

Guest host Katty Kay of the BBC broke in for rebuttal, since there was only five minutes or so left in the hour. Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post, a regular presence in recent  times on MSNBC, was the first journalist to suggest Frank was all wet.

HENDERSON: This has renewed this whole argument that the press is somehow in bed with Obama or in bed with Democrats and that the press goes easier on Democrats than they do on Republicans.
You know, I don't see that pattern, but I think it just feeds into, again, people are very partisan, people see the things they want to see when they look at the press and the press' treatment of black Republicans or white liberals. And I don't see any evidence of it.

You know, I think it almost makes the argument that there's some coordination on the part of the media. And I can say for one, I don't think the media -- we're called news organizations, but I think the idea that we're very organized is actually a misnomer if you've ever been in The Post newsroom or any of these newsrooms in -- around the Beltway.

There are two very typical and very maddening points in there. First, that Cain fans somehow just “see the things they want to see” about media bias. Somehow, the number of stories and their tone cannot be counted and judged. Second, that it’s silly to suggest this is “coordinated.” It doesn’t matter if it’s coordinated or uncoordinated. Liberals are reflexively leaping on this story with great aggression.

Then it turned to Naftali Bendavid of the Chicago Tribune, a Diane Rehm favorite. He also dismissed Frank:

There has been this allegation, too, specifically that the media and liberals are very upset by the idea of a black conservative and that that's what's behind some of this. But I guess I would just say that if it turned out that any presidential candidate, you know, on either party had reached a settlement or, you know -- or a settlement was reached on his behalf because of claims of sexual harassment by two or more women, I just don't think that wouldn't be a story.

I just think there's no evidence that somehow Herman Cain was being singled out. I think what it does show is that he's never been vetted before. The guy has never run for anything. He hasn't held political office. So things that may have come out earlier and been in some way, you know, internalized by the system with another candidate, he just hasn't gone through that yet. And I think that's some of what you're seeing right now.

Katty Kay added, helpfully, “And it wasn't, of course, just the one woman. We should stress this, that we have three.”  That didn’t help the case for Bill Clinton. Adding women added nothing to the “newsworthiness” for liberals. Monica Lewinsky became a huge story because of hard-to-deny evidence: audio tapes, and then a DNA sample.

Last up in the denial chain was Ron Elving, the political director of NPR, who claimed the media was all over the Gennifer Flowers charges of adultery against Bill Clinton in 1992:

You know, with -- let's go back to the Clinton example, where he began with -- back in 1991, 1992, when there were first rumors about Bill Clinton's affairs, there was woman named Gennifer Flowers. And she was willing to go to his bank of microphones, present her case, tell us all what she had experienced with Bill Clinton, and that was covered. I mean, I -- it was -- we stopped everything and watched that press conference in the middle of the day. Even broadcast television broke to it. It was covered heavily because she was willing to come forward. Paula Jones at that time was not.

There’s several misstatements in that paragraph. First, Gennifer Flowers gave a press conference late in the afternoon on a Thursday, and most of the networks waited until Monday morning – after the Clintons lied their faces off on 60 Minutes. CNN aired it live. I highly doubt broadcast television broke in (but perhaps I should re-check.) The amount of evening news stories on Flowers on ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC eventually added up to 14 stories, but eight of those were anchor briefs (often focusing on Flowers getting paid by the Star tabloid for her story.) To put that number in perspective, we’ve seen the Cain story – with no woman actually going public – beat Flowers by a factor of going on five.

Second, while Paula Jones did not come forward in 1992, when she did charge Clinton with sexual harassment in February 1994, only ABC gave her charges 16 seconds of air time. Then the networks (and print outlets) waited until May, when Clinton hired a defense lawyer, to discover the charges. That lines up with what Frank had to say. Frank told the truth. The media “professionals” denied the truth...on taxpayer-funded radio.

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