MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2017
Part 1—The culture of accusation: Long ago and far away, Kathleen Willey was quickly believed.
You might even say that she inspired a stampede—a stampede of heartfelt belief. The stampede was staged by the nation's upper-end pundits—more specifically, by love-starved male pundits among them.
Over the course of the next several years, this stampede was followed by rigid applications of the various codes of silence which surround so much of the modern press corps' work. In these ways, the Willey case helps us ponder the modern culture of accusation, especially as it may be applied to the first accuser in.
Willey inspired the stampede to which we refer on Sunday, March 15, 1998. On that evening, she appeared on 60 Minutes and became a formal Bill Clinton accuser.
A string of pundits swore their belief. Let's establish a quick bit of background:
When Willey appeared on 60 Minutes, the nation's year of impeachment was roughly two months along. It had been two months since the claim had surfaced that Clinton had had some sort of affair with Monica Lewinsky, who was widely described in the press as a "21-year-old intern."
The Lewinsky stampede was in full bloom when Willey did 60 Minutes. On that program, Willey claimed that Clinton had groped her, right in the Oval Office, in November 1993, a bit more than five years earlier.
Because the larger stampede was on, pundits knew how to react. Upper-end pundits rushed to swear that they believed every word Willey said. This was especially true among our lovesick boy pundits.
They'd never set eyes on Willey before. Absent further examination, they had no apparent way to judge her general credibility or the accuracy of the story she told.
It wasn't clear how pundits could know that their new darling was telling the truth. But by this time, a basic premise seemed to obtain within our culture of accusation. That basic premise was this:
At least where Clinton is involved, you must believe the accusers!
You must believe the accusers! On this basis, lovesick male pundits stood in line to affirm every word Willey said. Tomorrow, we'll go back and review their embarrassing declarations.
Why do we say that these instant professions of belief seem somewhat embarrassing now? Easy! Over the next three years, Willey's basic credibility was undermined again and again.
Let us count some of the ways:
October 1998: By the fall of 1998, Willey's account of what happened with Clinton had been challenged in sworn testimony by Linda Tripp, her White House co-worker.
What did the press corps do when that sworn testimony was made public? What do you think the press corps did? The press corps covered it up!
May 1999: In May 1999, Willey made a crazy, provably false accusation against a Washington journalist—an accusation which was quickly shown to be false. The crazy accusation was aggressively bruited by the unconscionable Chris Matthews on his gruesome, Jack Welch-funded TV program, Hardball.
(No one loved Willey like Chris did.)
Willey's accusation was quickly shown to be false. In the meantime, a Hardball viewer had gone to the journalist's home with a gun. Mercifully, he was arrested before he could kill anyone.
Matthews had to go on the air several times to hem and haw about what he had done. How did the press corps handle this astonishing conduct?
How do you think they handled it? The press corps covered it up!
March 2002: In March 2002, Kenneth Starr’s successor as independent counsel released his final report on the endless Clinton probes. Robert Ray’s report included a special appendix about Willey.
In it, Ray noted that Willey “had given substantially different accounts in two sworn statements and had lied to the FBI about her relationship with a former boyfriend” (we quote a report in Newsday). In Nina Totenberg’s words, Ray “concluded that it was impossible to convict based on Willey’s words [because] she’d lied so many times, including to the prosecutors.”
According to the Ray report, it seemed that Ray had even considered prosecuting Willey for perjury, given the lies she told to his investigators. How did the press corps handle this array of new information about Willey?
Dearest darlings, use your heads! With a few extremely tiny exceptions, the press corps refused to report it!
Kathleen Willey went on to enjoy career as a crackpot, right-wing radio talk show host. There she was at the second Trump/Clinton debate last fall, presented as a truth-telling guest of Candidate Donald J. Trump.
To this day, very few people have ever heard about the various ways her credibility has been undermined, only some of which we have mentioned here.
How accurate was Willey's accusation against Bill Clinton? We can't quite tell you that.! But due to the press corps' prevailing culture, Willey's claims were instantly believed. Later evidence undermining her claims was, by law, disappeared.
This is the "journalistic" culture of our devolving nation. Tomorrow, we'll go back and review the instant judgments which were reached by an array of lovesick boys when Willey first appeared.
With apologies, we'll also start to float a question. Here it is:
When Leign Corfman's accusation against Roy Moore first appeared in the Washington Post, did it make sense for fiery liberals to stampede off and instantly say they believed her?
We know of no reason to doubt Corfman's claims. For that reason, we'll offer apologies for raising this obvious question.
But on the day Corfman's claim first appeared, there was no second accuser charging Moore with sexual assault. Leigh Corfman was first accuser in. Should our new generation of silly children have stampeded off to say that they believed her accusation?
Once again, we'll apologize for asking that question. But when Kathleen Willey was gifted with universal belief, a gunman showed up at a journalist's house, furious about a later false accusation.
Should the children have remembered that when they stampeded a few week ago? Dearest darlings, use your heads! Few of the children had ever heard this history. Their elders had kept it from them!
We covered all these matters in real time. Later, we covered them all again. But any such effort is totally pointless. Within our modern "press corps" culture, information plays almost no role.
At this award-winning site, it's all anthropology now! The sheer stupidity of press corps behavior has taken us to a whole new place.
Once you disregard our own millennia of self-praise, what kinds of creatures are we "humans" really? What tiny skills do we really possess? With what are we left after that?
We'll be exploring these questions all week, along with several others.
Tomorrow: Embarrassing statements of lovesick belief from the nation's silliest boys