One favorite tactic of our “objective” media during the impeachment of President Donald Trump is to find a clip of the president’s legal experts such as Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz expressing an opinion during the 1998-99 impeachment of Bill Clinton and then show a contrast with the present day.
But this is just as easily demonstrated with the press. It’s not surprising that Democrats and Republicans favor or oppose impeachment based on the party of the president in the dock. It should be surprising that our supposedly nonpartisan journalists flip to whichever talking points are in use by the Democrats.
That makes the press a gaggle of hypocrites.
Back in 1998, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift spoke for the vast majority of the press from her chair on “The McLaughlin Group.” Before the House voted to impeach Clinton, she warned, “If the Republicans want to go ahead and do this, I think they disgrace themselves in a more profound way than President Clinton has by abusing the machinery of impeachment, knowing full well that the Senate will hold a sham trial and they will be, in effect, delivered of this ridiculous conclusion.”
Over and over again, these network “news” stars lamented that the House impeachment vote and the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton were a “sham” and a horrible “distraction” from the people’s business. They said small-minded Republican Clinton haters were obsessed with sex — and never mind the actual charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Two days after the House impeached Clinton, NBC's "Today" show tag team spewed outrage at that president's fate. Co-host Katie Couric lectured Sen. Mitch McConnell, asking why he was so convinced there would be a speedy Senate trial. "Because many people have been talking about a long, protracted trial taking attention away from the important issues in this country that people really care about?" she said.
Then there was NBC's Matt Lauer, who brought on former House Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned in disgrace in 1989 over a corrupt scheme of selling crates of his book to lobbying groups. Lauer said: "Speaker Wright, let me start with you. When you resigned nine years ago, you had been battered by the right. You called for an end to what you called, 'mindless cannibalism.' Nine years later, we're hearing terms like that again, and others swirling around the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Have we learned nothing in nine years?"
One thing we all do know is Matt Lauer learned absolutely nothing from Clinton about sexual harassment in the workplace.
The networks today tout the Democratic House managers as so incredibly diverse and worldly-wise and then mock the Republican House managers of 1999 as stale, pale and male.
They marched to that beat back then, too. On the "CBS Evening News," reporter Phil Jones was the publicist. "Democrats believe House managers are conservative zealots, and some Republicans agree," he said. He turned to Rep. Peter King, who proclaimed, "It's a very hardcore group ... very hard-nosed and determined to get Bill Clinton."
Jones elaborated: "(T)he impeachment managers are strikingly alike. All 13 are white, all 13 males, all 13 Christians, all 13 lawyers." King added that "they live in an echo chamber."
We all lived in an echo chamber. It was called ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, et cetera. They promoted one another in warning of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against the heroic liberal president.
Journalists constantly moan that their credibility is shot and blame "anti-media" messages from Trump and the conservative media. Not so. They've lost the public's respect all by themselves. They had every opportunity to avoid dreadfully obvious partisan flip-flopping on this impeachment. Instead, they flagrantly indulged their Democratic buddies all over again.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.