Ten Years Ago, Clinton's Latin Trip Was Used to Smother Whitewater Hype

While I'm traipsing about in the Notable Quotables archive, let's bring some context to the media's enjoyment of Mayan priests purging the "bad spirits" of Bush on his Latin America trip. If the president meets with public opposition on his trips, that can be newsworthy. But plucking out colorful anti-Bush anecdotes can demonstrate that the "news" is sometimes what the reporter is eager to find, and not the whole picture. Ten years ago, the networks were not always eager to find anti-Clinton angles on Latin America trips. Instead, in this case they used a Clinton trip to make the case that America was too obsessed with Whitewater:

-- "That answer, which the President has given before, will no doubt be scrutinized back in Washington but it has not ruined this Mexico trip. Mexicans could care less about Whitewater. They are joining the administration in calling this summit a success." -- ABC's John Donvan referring to Bill Clinton's insistence that "I know of no factual discrepancy, period" in Hillary's statements. May 6, 1997 World News Tonight.-- "When the President fended off a Whitewater question by saying, 'Look, I'm just down here doing my job,' the Caribbean journalists burst into applause, in part because they had heard enough about Whitewater and wanted to talk more about bananas." -- Donvan from Barbados, May 10, 1997 World News Tonight/Saturday.

Months later, when Clinton went to Spain, John Donvan again found the foreign trip an invigorating diversion for the scandal-plagued president, in this case, the funded-by-China scandal:

"Mr. Clinton in Europe is moving like a man on a roll. A summit here where he got almost everything he wanted, an economy back home that is the best in decades. Even the charges being raised about his party's fundraising tactics do not seem to stick...On testimony today that Mr. Clinton personally referred this man, John Huang, the central figure in the Senate investigation, for a fundraising job in the Democratic Party, the President for the first time confirmed the story himself. But his demeanor, and especially his answer, sent a message that it's no big deal to him....The President's aides say that Mr. Clinton is too busy with diplomacy to pay much attention to the Senate investigation." -- ABC's John Donvan from the NATO summit in Madrid, July 9, 1997 World News Tonight.

John Donvan often sounded like a very pliant White House correspondent, unlike Terry Moran's whacking of George W. Bush.

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