NBC Provides SOS (Same Old Spin) for Hillary's Strange Marriage

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a delicate article attempting to calculate how much time Bill and Hillary Clinton spend together these days and whether their strange marriage will have negative impact on her ambitions to run for president, as some Democrats worry. (The Times headline called the subject a "delicate dance.") Only Democrats, aides, and friends were quoted. On Wednesday’s edition of Today on NBC, reporter Norah O'Donnell regurgitated the story with even more sensitivity.

Katie Couric and O'Donnell couldn't even locate the idea that Democrats get heartburn just thinking about rewinding the country back through the adultery politics of the 1990s. Couric spun it like they were just a political version of Brangelina: "When Bill Clinton burst on to the national political scene he promoted his wife Hillary as an equal political partner saying, 'two heads were better than one.' They enjoyed some of the highest highs and endured some of the lowest lows as well during their years in the White House. But now that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is eyeing her own bid for the presidency a lot of folks are asking where's Bill?"

O'Donnell mildly reported that these two stars have "led busy and somewhat separate lives." Near the end, the typical sympathy for poor, cheated-on Hillary surfaced:

O’Donnell: "Advisers to the Clintons declined to talk about the marriage saying only that the two work very hard to spend time together but intimate details of their marriage have long been public. In 1992 they went on 60 Minutes."

Bill Clinton, on CBS in 1992: "I acknowledge causing pain in my marriage."

O'Donnell: "They have dealt with Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. In her memoirs Senator Clinton admitted she wanted to wring her husband's neck for lying to her about Lewinsky and said that, 'the most difficult decisions I have made in my life were to stay married to Bill and run for the Senate from New York.' Now the woman who first campaigned with her husband touting a two-for-one presidency, may hope voters will judge her someday in her own right."

They "dealt with" Flowers, Jones, and Lewinsky? They lied about Flowers, Jones, and Lewinsky would be more precise.

Hillary is always, always, always painted as the victim, and never as an assailant. Network reporters (and especially women like O’Donnell) refuse to acknowledge that Mrs. Clinton ran the bimbo-eruption patrol for her husband. What’s with NBC? This was the Today show. Couldn't we find Hillary on "Today" in 1998 insisting that the Lewinsky affair would "not be proven true," that it was all a fanciful right-wing conspiracy? Conservatives have to drag out the real public-policy issue on this: Mrs. Clinton relentlessly lied, without remorse, in public about what she knew to be true. When Tim Russert tried in a 2000 Senate debate to get her apologize for her "Today" comments, the press was relentlessly angry at....Russert. Hmm. Maybe that's why they're still being wimpy to this day at NBC about her problems with telling the truth.

Let us recall what happened back in 1998. NBC's Matt Lauer tried to begin gently, asking if the President described his relationship with Monica Lewinsky to her in detail. These were the first words out of her mouth: "Well, we've talked at great length, and I think as this matter unfolds, the entire country will have more information." That's not an answer. So Lauer asked again. "But he has described to the American people what this relationship was not in his words. Has he described to you what it was?" Mrs. Clinton replied with the same creepy non-answer: "Yes. And we'll find that out as time goes by, Matt. But I think the important thing now is to stand as firmly as I can and say that, you know, the president has denied these allegations on all counts, unequivocally. And we'll see how this plays out."

Notice the strange double-talk in here, with Hillary withholding any story of what she was told and noting only what the President claimed publicly? It also gave her political cover, so she could claim months later that she was lied to in January, as if she would have believed it. Would any wife who wasn’t so graspingly ambitious, so politically calculating, respond to charges she thought were outrageously false by suggesting so impersonally "we’ll see how this plays out"? Would any normal wife have settled for her husband telling her "We'll find that out as time goes by"?

The last creepy section of the interview erupted when Lauer asked, point blank: " If an American president had an adulterous liaison in the White House and lied to cover it up, should the American people ask for his resignation?"

Hillary wanted to duck: "Well, they should certainly be concerned about it."

Lauer asked again: "Should they ask for his resignation?"

Hillary the defense lawyer broke out "Well, I think that—if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true." Across the country, skeptics of the Clintons had their faces screwed up, repeating "Proven true?" Was Hillary being overconfident that no definitive evidence was going to surface?

From the look of this story, expect a trend in the Hillary coverage: extreme tedium with recounting the 1990s, dispatched in a few seconds of film and the implication that only the "Clinton haters" really care about the precious details.

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