Interlude—The children staged a swoon: As a matter of general theory, journalists are not supposed to fall in love with accusers.

Sometimes, accusations turn out to be false. Sometimes, accusers turn out to be a bit squirrely.

For these reasons among many others, journalists are supposed to approach accusers and accusations with appropriate caution. Given the modern press corps’ low caliber, that frequently doesn’t occur.

It didn’t happen in 1998, when Kathleen Willey burst on the scene in a dramatic 60 Minutes appearance. It isn’t happening today, as children on The One True Channel fashion their own accusations against everyone who happens to waddle into their limited, partisan field of view.

By now, Willey is regarded as a somewhat shaky source by a wide range of observers. The reasons for this are obvious.

In recent years, Willey has made the standard wild accusations about the murderous Clintons. Back in the day, weird events quickly turned up from her personal life. In his final report on the Clinton probe, independent counsel Robert Ray made a point of noting the fact that Willey had lied in the course of the investigation. He explicitly stated that he had agreed not to prosecute her.

That doesn’t mean that some statement by Willey is automatically false. For sensible observers, these developments may heighten the sense that we ought to be careful about accusers and their colorful claims.

Back in the day, the boys and girls of the celebrity press corps weren’t cautious about Kathleen Willey. They could tell she was telling the truth!

Willey appeared on 60 Minutes in March 1998. Few journalists had ever set eyes on her before that thrilling engagement.

They had no history with Willey. She had no public track record.

Aside from her well-chosen clothing and her good hair, there was no apparent way to judge Willey’s credibility. That didn’t stop the various children who had fallen in love with accusers, as long as their accusations were aimed at the Clintons, then at Candidate Gore.

After Willey did 60 Minutes, the stampede began. Willey was conventionally attractive. She was upper middle class manners.

Plus, she was accusing Clinton! These three factors meant that she was plainly telling the truth.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to Chris Matthews’ astounding behavior when he interviewed Willey fourteen months later, in May 1999. We’ll look at what he did in the two nights after his interview with Willey. We’ll look at what he did the next week, after his appalling conduct almost got somebody killed.

We’ll look at what NBC News didn’t do. We’ll wonder why they didn’t do it.

Today, Matthews still froths on the air every night. He still engages in the clownish conduct which is his stock in trade.

Today, though, his misconduct is aimed in a different direction in the partisan wars which define cable “news.” For that reason, Rachel Maddow has frequently praised his obvious greatness.

Matthews is her “beloved colleague,” she once jaw-droppingly said.

Back in the day, Matthews staged a love affair with Willey, perhaps his favorite accuser. But long before he displayed his fealty to his faire lady, many others had already done so.

After her 60 Minutes appearance, they stampeded off, trying to top each other in their declarations of true belief. The various pundits all could see that Willey had plainly been telling the truth. They competed to see who could vouch for her honesty in the most ridiculous fashion.

As time went by, it became clear that Willey’s a fairly shaky witness as a general matter. In real time, the children insisted she was telling the truth. To recall what some of the children said, when they had no idea who she was, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/2/98.

(We apologize for formatting problems, which we can’t now correct.)

In 2002, independent counsel Robert Ray cited Willey’s lies as part of his final report on the probe of President Clinton. Result? Big newspapers disappeared this part of Ray’s report, and major pundits continued to swear by Willey’s credibility.

To review that embarrassing part of the story, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/10/03.

Journalists shouldn’t [HEART] accusers! Beyond that, they should be careful about pimping accusations. But that’s true in the world of civics textbooks, not in the world where we live.

The press corps loved accusers back then. Chris Matthews loved one accuser so much, he almost got somebody killed.

Final point:

At the present time, we’re seeing a lot of love for accusations on our “liberal” “news channel.” The policy was bad back then. The policy’s bad today.

Tomorrow: Where Matthews went from there

One crowning example: After Willey appeared on 60 Minutes, journalists raced to vouch for her obvious credibility. They had never set eyes on her before, but they could see she was truthful.

Chuck Lane embarrassed himself in The New Republic. Wonderfully clever headline included, here’s the start of his TRB column:
LANE (4/6/98): Unslick Willey

Kathleen Willey is pretty clearly telling the truth about what happened between her and Bill Clinton on November 29, 1993. And the episode is pretty clearly a far more offensive matter than Clinton's alleged dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. With Monica, it was consensual. The president's advance toward Willey even included a modest measure of physical force. It was made to a married woman whose husband was an acquaintance of the president and the first lady. It took place as that same married woman was asking the president for a paying job so she could rescue her family from financial disaster. And it started in the Oval Office during business hours, with a Cabinet officer cooling his heels outside. Yuck!

So the president is a groper and a liar. He must be held accountable.
Lane never explained how he knew that Willey was telling the truth about these matters and that Clinton was lying. The children could tell that Willey was telling the truth!

For the record, William Safire had already played the slick/unslick Willey card. “Here was no slick Willey,” he cleverly wrote in the New York Times on March 19, as he rushed to judge the new accuser’s “gripping interview.”

Journalists should show considerable caution concerning accusations. True then, still true today.

Except on cable “news.”


  1. Day Three of what Willey told Matthews 15 years ago, with the added bonuse of what Chuck Lane wrote about Willey in the New Republic 16 years ago.

    Yes, that must be a "real traffic study" after all. And the McDonnells of Virginia also stand falsely accused.

    Bob has proven it, on a journalistic basis.

    1. What did Chuck say about Gore?

    2. Lane's report in the New Republic predates by several months the officially declared start of the War on Gore, so it is obviously irrelevant.

    3. Yes, but wasn't the War on the Clintons kind of the minor skirmish that led to the cataclysm of the War on Gore? Sort of the Spanish Civil War or Invasion of Manchuria as a precursor to the Big One? Somerby does have the advantage of hindsight. Surely Chuck said something during the epic conflict or, worse yet, remained silent.

    4. Please stop pretending that TDH claims there's a "real" traffic study. He's said that whatever Wildstein claims to have examined could well turn out to be a ruse or a hoax.

      Please stop pretending that TDH claims that the McDonnells have been falsely accused. He's said that he doesn't think the accusations amount to heinous crimes. Virginia law would agree, although federal law differs.

      Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

    5. Yes. Please replace "real" with "possibly could have been a well intentioned but bungled."

      With similar gratitude.

  2. "By now, Willey is regarded as a somewhat shaky source by a wide range of observers. The reasons for this are obvious."

    Perhaps. But not by "When Megyn was Good" Kelly. Funny how the woman whose spirited "Santa is white" offering got a backhanded defense from Somerby just interviewed Willey with nary a mention here. Four posts tripping back down memory lane and not even a peep.

    Fortunately Chris Matthews himself brought up the recent Willey appearance on FOX last night so I am sure we will get several posts about this recent "Willey 'n wagging" that mentions Kelly as tangentially as Rush was mentioned in the "almost" killing back last century.

    1. Oh wow! I found the rush transcript of that "interview" on Kelly's Web site, and now I have to take a shower.

      "When Megyn was good" not only gave a platform to a woman who lost all credibility long ago, she also brought in the tales of Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and Juanita Brodderick as well.

      One stands in amazement that Somerby resisted the tempting bait of this particular trip down memory lane at the very time he is partying on Matthews like it's 1999.

      But then again, it was on Fox. We must remember that the people who are ruining our national discourse inhabit either MSNBC or the NY Times op-ed page and are paid quite handsomely for doing it.

    2. Well please lather and rinse thoroughly. However, many fine TDH readers find trolls leave them unlean.
      Others feel tyrannized so we never read what they have to offer.

    3. "... many fine TDH readers ...."

      What do they have to do with you?

    4. Ah, come on. Give this fine TDH reader a break.

      He can't wrap his brain around the fact that his leader thinks a 1999 interview with Willey is far more relevant today than a 2014 interview with Willey.

      So lacking any logical response, he becomes the first in the thread to whip out the old "troll" card.

    5. "Card?" Do you still have a freaking card???

      Most of us trolls upgraded to 3G decoder rings by now. You must be paid by Matthews instead of Rachel.

    6. No, actually I haven't been promoted to even Matthews yet. I am being paid by Alex Wagner.

    7. Still with the young scribes, eh? Well what are you doing around here? She may be Irish Catholic but her daddy was a big time Clintonista. That gives her partial immunity in Bobworld.

    8. Yes, but she is also a member of the vile MSNBC tribe for which Bob's tribe offers no immunity.

      Like her mentor, Alex stuffs wads of cash into her pants as she strokes herself and perspires. She was also educated rather elitely, and is much, much younger than Somerby.

      As a loyal MSNBCist, Alex takes some of her ample pay and spreads it around to us trolls in order to thoroughly discredit Somerby lest he interrupt their plans to ruin American discourse and prevents them from achieving ulitmate global domination.

    9. The tyranny is strong in you young troll. We suggest you learn to save your strength for the upcoming battle at the side of Princess Alex. Two paragraphs.

  3. "At the present time, we’re seeing a lot of love for accusations on our “liberal” “news channel.” The policy was bad back then. The policy’s bad today."

    Yesterday is was "As a matter of theory, journalists aren’t supposed to fall in love with accusers. But that’s what happened in the late 1990s, and that’s what’s been happening now."

    Note the subtle shift. Yesterday in commentary I asked who were these accusers journalist's are in love with today. Someone responded with a laundry list of people who had made no real accusations but rather had reason to raise questions in their official capacity.

    The closest you can come to an "accuser" in this case is Mayor Zimmer. Her story was told to Steve Kornacki, who had already been dubbed the press corp MVP in this story by Somerby. Note how Somerby has steered clear of this aspect of the Christie story.

    Perhaps Somerby recognizes there are no accusers like Willey this time around. Just events and documents he seems to highlight or ignore as they fit or don't fit his own meme. Just as cable "news" is doing.

    1. I suppose Bob could continue to stretch credulity far beyond the breaking point and announce some sort of parallel between Pat Foye and Kathleen Willey as "accusers the press has fallen in love with."

      Especially after Foye's press conference yesterday when, pressed by Steve Kornacki, he described Wildstein's job at the Port Authority as "Politics. Next question."

      This flies in the face of the detailed description Somerby repeated on this very blog of Wildstein's important work overseeing billions of dollars worth of projects.

    2. Wildstein? Wildstein?? Oh, I remember him.

      "Here’s the background:

      Back in September, a minor New Jersey official had closed three lanes of traffic from Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge. This created a week-long traffic jam which crippled the town of Fort Lee.

      The minor official was a high school friend of Christie’s. First, the minor official lied about why he had done this weird, stupid, dangerous thing. Last week, though, he resigned his post with the Port Authority."

      Piddling stuff. Minor fluff. A story without legs. Nobody will waste more than a minute on it.

    3. Anonymous at 12:20P,

      Does your last sentence mean that because TDH judged Bridgegate to "piddling stuff and minor fluff" that he figured the story had no staying power? Have you actually read this blog?

      By the way, nice rhyme with the stuff 'n fluff.

    4. No deadrat. It means once TDH pronounced it piddling I have studiously ignored subsequent events and returned to obsessing about what Chris Matthews did in 1999. And once I realized Wildstein was a minor official who was a childhood friend of the Governor who TDH told us lied about this being a study, I worried my pretty little head no futher.

      The final two lines relect my careful consideration after excellent reporting by TDH.

    5. Bob does seem to keep adding "additional details" to his unauthorized biography of David Wildstein.

      First he was a minor official and and a childhood friend who lied about doing a stupid, dangerous thing.

      Then he became a nerdy guy that the cool class president and star athlete wouldn't bother with.

      Then it turned out he might not have been lying after all, and that this might not have been such a stupid, dangerous thing. It could be a real traffic study. To this day, it has never been disproved to Bob's satisfaction.

      And of course, Wildstein suddenly ceased being a "minor official" and held the key job of overseeing billions of dollars worth of projects -- a six-figure gig that was never advertised, to which Wildstein did not have to apply or even submit a resume, for which no job description was ever written, and has now been abolished after the only guy to hold it has resigned.

      No wonder Bob's fans are so dizzy from all that spinning.

    6. My friend, the globe always spins even as it warms and our intellectual culture collapses (although most don't see it.) Stop getting all paralyzed about it.

    7. In early reporting in one of the local papers, it was stated that the one lane left had to handle both cash customers and EZ Pass customers. If true, that is proof positive that there was no "study." Under no circumstances would anyone involved to any extent whatsoever in toll roads take any action, whether for a week or even one day or one rush hour, that would eliminate the convenience benefit of the EZ Pass.

  4. Another dreary post from the world's stupidest blogger. Sweet hay for his few dozen brain dead acolytes.

    Why can't these posts be shorter and easier to read? Why make a point again and again? And why worry about the past? As one of our greatest presidents Ben Franklin said "History is just that. Don't worry about it."

    And he damn sure didn't have any 1,500 word posts in that Poor Richard Almanac.

  5. Matthews was for all intent and purpose a high price political operative working on behalf of Jack Welch, George W. Bush and the Republican Party. I don't understand why any liberal would take offense over him being called out for his deplorable and disgraceful behavior.

    1. I don't understand why any serious person, liberal or conservative, would spent 15 seconds, let alone 15 years, obsessing about Chris Matthews.

    2. This wouldn't be the same "political operative" in service to Dubya that stomped Zell Miller so silly that Miller went completely unhinged on national TV, would it?