Part 1—Watching Times readers get played: In this morning's New York Times, three readers discuss Megan Twohey's 2900-word, front-page report about the way Hillary Clinton savaged her husband's accusers back in the glorious day.
Twohey's report appeared on the front page of Monday's Times. It focused on the (highly improbable) claims made by Gennifer Flowers in 1992, when Twohey was in the tenth grade.
The thrilling story still gives Twohey strange wonderful feelings today. That said, her report struck us as plainly deceptive—as baldly dishonest work.
As we noted in this post, Twohey seemed to pick and choose her facts with great deal of care. This was true when she wrote about the accusation by Flowers, and when she discussed an earlier accusation by "rock groupie" Connie Hamzy.
Perhaps most strikingly, Twohey seemed to pick and choose her facts when she told her readers that Bill Clinton eventually confessed to "having 'sexual relations' " and to "having sex" with Flowers. In our view, Twohey's careful presentation strongly suggests that she, and her editor, were deliberately telling Times readers much less than they actually knew.
Did Bill Clinton confess to those cultural crimes? If we're all still speaking English, we'd have to say he didn't. But Twohey picked and chose with great care, telling the story in a way which has long thrilled high-end "journalists." In three letters in today's Times, we see the cluelessness which can result when New York Times readers get played.
Two of the letters come from supporters of Hillary Clinton. The first such letter comes from a woman right here in Baltimore. She blames everyone for the continued existence of this story—everyone but the New York Times and the rest of the mainstream press corps.
In her letter, she blames Candidate Trump—and she blames "the right-wing." She shows no sign of thinking that she has been played by Twohey and by the New York Times.
The second letter comes from a Hillary-hater in Florida. He is devoted to "the truth," which Hillary Clinton fought:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (10/5/16): Hillary Clinton fought back against the truth, and she either was willfully blind to the truth or considered it a mere inconvenience to be swept away.According to this truth-loving reader, Hillary Clinton "was willfully blind to the truth or considered it a mere inconvenience." It doesn't seem to have entered his mind 1) that Hillary Clinton may have known the truth about the accusations of Flowers and Hamzy, namely that their claims were false; or 2) that Hillary Clinton may not have known the truth about her husband's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, in part because there had been so many false claims in the past.
When “Mrs. Clinton expressed pleasure to her friend that she and her husband were able to drive ‘their adversaries totally nuts’ because they did not appear to be suffering,” she also expressed what a Clinton Restoration will mean for the future—suffering for the rest of us.
The Clintons may have a high threshold of pain, but the nation should not have to endure the pain and suffering of another Clinton presidency.
(Full disclosure: We don't know what Hillary Clinton thought about the claims concerning her husband and Lewinsky. Neither does that fellow in Florida, until he gets played by the Times.)
The third letter comes from another Clinton supporter. He seems to accept, and even assert, a central premise from Twohey's deceptive report—the premise that Hillary Clinton "was mean" to her husband's accusers:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: After exhaustively chronicling Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions, now you run a story on how she grappled with her husband’s infidelity. Really?For the record, that was "the point of [Twohey's] article." Amazingly, Twohey implied that Hillary Clinton was mean for assembling affidavits in which three witnesses swore that Hamzy's story was bogus.
This is not news. If the point of your article is that Mrs. Clinton was mean to the women who accused her husband of having sex with them, so be it. Does this suggest that her regard for women is the same as Donald Trump’s? Hardly. She was an irate wife, fighting to save her marriage, and their careers.
Politically and professionally, she has spent her career championing the rights of women and minorities. Mr. Trump has focused on enriching himself at the expense of others, while denigrating women for fun.
(Unmentioned by Twohey: Hamzy was using her thrilling claim to promote an upcoming appearance in Penthouse.)
In those three letters, Times readers react to Twohey's highly deceptive, lengthy front-page report. In our view, they chronicle the way this newspaper's readers have been misled, misinformed and deceived down through the many long years since Twohey was maybe 15.
When Gennifer Flowers first appeared on the scene, mainstream newspapers largely rejected her claims. A Newsweek report by Jonathan Alter provided strong reasons for doubting or rejecting her claims. The earlier claim by Hamzy had also been rejected, on the basis that Hamzy was a well-known national nut.
That said, by 1998, the press corps had come to [HEART] all Clinton accusers. They found themselves thrilled by a new possibility, a possibility which actually turned out to be true.
This new possibility involved a "21-year-old intern" who was neither 21 nor an intern—but they loved loved loved their new story so much that they kept describing her that way. In the process, they even resurrected the ludicrous Flowers, who would go on to tell the world about the Clintons' many murders, while reminding TV viewers to please visit her play-for-pay site!
(Chris Matthews to Flowers during one such appearance, on Hardball, in August 1999: “Well, you know, I gotta pay a little tribute here. You're a very beautiful woman, and I—and I have to tell you, he knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that. Hillary Clinton knows that. How can a woman put up with a relationship between her husband and somebody, anybody, but especially somebody like you that's a knockout?...It's an objective statement, Gennifer. I'm not flirting.” Flowers went on to discuss the deeply troubling murders. Her half-hour appearance was so crazy that she was quickly rewarded with a full hour on Hannity & Colmes.)
Even today, at age maybe 40, Twohey gets mysterious feelings in her body when she dreams about this old tale. On Monday, she and her editor put their thumbs and their asscheeks on the scale as they retold the thrilling story of the accusations lodged by Hamzy and Flowers.
They picked and chose their facts with care, keeping their thrilling old stories alive. In the process, they seem to have convinced some readers that Flowers and Hamzy were telling the truth, and that Hillary Clinton had somehow been "mean" to her husband's accusers.
The public has been played for many years by a collection of people like Twohey. This morning's letters help us see the way the public can get misinformed when the major news orgs they trust play such remarkable games.
Tomorrow, we'll consider an affair which actually may have occurred during the years encompassed by Flowers' highly implausible claims. On Friday, we'll review the slick and slippery way two major journalistic stars played you about Gennifer Flowers in two high-profile books.
It's hard to believe that this conduct exists. Yet it plainly does exist. It has typified our mainstream "journalism" for a very long time.
People are dead all over the world because these life forms behave in these ways. On the brighter side, telling these tales can make our scribes feel good.
Mysterious feelings may still emerge when scribes dream about these thrilling old tales. If voters get badly misled in the process, it may seem like a small price to pay.
Tomorrow: An affair you may not have to misremember
Friday: As far as George Stephanopoulos knows, no one was murdered at Rose