Since the Stormy Daniels story broke, network and cable news have given the scandal near-daily attention, with CNN even devoting over half of its total primetime coverage one evening to the porn star’s lawsuit against President Trump. Her appearance on 60 Minutes, which is set to air on March 25, has been hyped enthusiastically by the media, and it will no doubt receive additional attention for days after it airs.
But Donald Trump is not the first President to have been accused of sexual improprieties. When President Bill Clinton faced allegations of sexual harassment from Paula Jones and even a rape charge from Juanita Broaddrick, these same outlets looked for reasons not to cover those charges.
Instead, Clinton’s alleged victims were excoriated in the media for embroiling a Democratic President in scandal. Some questioned the accusers’ motives (ABC’s Charles Gibson: “Is she not trying to capitalize on this?”); others attacked them (Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: “Some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks”); and still others dismissed the stories entirely (Gannett’s Deborah Mathis: “I don’t understand why this is even a case to begin with”).
NewsBusters analysts dug through the MRC’s archives for some of the most egregious examples of the media’s hostility towards these women. To say the least, there was quite a contrast between how each President’s accusers were treated. But don’t take our word for it – the media’s own testimony is proof enough:
“The case is being fomented by right-wing nuts, and yes, she [Paula Jones] is not a very credible witness, and it’s really not a law case at all...some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks...I think she’s a dubious witness, I really do.”
— Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, May 7, 1994.
“We’ve got an awful lot to talk about this week, including the [Paula Jones] sexual harassment suit against the President. Of course, in that one, it’s a little tough to figure out who’s really being harassed.”
— Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, May 10, 1994.
“Why does anyone care what this woman [Paula Jones] has to say? ...Bottom line, Sam. Is she not trying to capitalize on this, in effect to profit from impugning the President?”
— Questions from Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to Sam Donaldson about his Paula Jones interview, June 16, 1994. Note: Jones eventually was awarded $850,000 in damages from Bill Clinton.
“I have to profess complete confusion over this entire [Paula Jones] case, why this is even a case. If any man, I don’t care who he is, invites me to a room and pulls his pants down and asks me to do something, he’s going to have a decided limp from that day on and I go on with my life. I don’t need to sue anyone, it doesn’t traumatize me, I don’t understand why this is even a case to begin with.”
— Gannett’s Deborah Mathis on Inside Washington, August 3, 1997.
“The [Juanita Broaddrick] story doesn’t deserve to be dignified by being broadcast and displayed. What I find fascinating about this case is that we’ve sunk so low now that a charge of this magnitude can be leveled against the President of the United States with next to no evidence at all. I think that’s outrageous.”
— Time national correspondent Jack E. White on Inside Washington, February 27, 1999.
Don Imus: “I was reading in either Time or Newsweek that even the woman herself, Juanita Broaddrick said that she hopes that this thing went away this week and even she was sick about hearing about it and it’s her story.”
Rather: “Well, let’s hope she gets her way with that.”
— Exchange on February 23, 1999 Imus in the Morning on MSNBC.
“Are we going to look back on this time 100 years from now the way we look back on Salem?...We’re going to wind up with government by goody-goodies, government by people who have done nothing in their life expect walk the straight and narrow, who have no creative thoughts. We’re going to look back on this 100 years from now and say we drove some of our best people out of politics. In the 20th century, having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the Presidency.”
— Newsweek Senior Editor Joe Klein on Face the Nation, May 8, 1994.