From the Progressive Review 1996
Accessory after the fact:
the media and the Clinton scandals
By Sam Smith
Because it controls its own medium and can revise history at will, one accessory after the fact in the Clinton scandals is almost certain to remain unscathed: the media. From the beginning, journalists created a fantasy portrait of Bill Clinton as a brilliant visionary, managerial superman, and charismatic leader. During the New Hampshire primary in 1992, the New Republic‘s Hendrik Hertzberg surveyed several dozen journalists and found that all of them, had they been New Hampshire voters, would have chosen Clinton. He suggested that, “the real reason members of the press like Clinton is simple, and surprisingly uncynical: they think he would make a very good, perhaps a great, president. Several told me they were convinced that Clinton is the most talented presidential candidate they have ever encountered, JFK included.”
Not only was there no substantive evidence for such a conclusion, there was plenty to suggest that Clinton was instead a politician of no fixed philosophical or moral address, a man who began with compromise and retreated from there, and a rampantly mundane governor. More importantly, he was known to be less than honest, a sexual predator, and hung out with some of the sleaziest types in his state.
In Shadows of Hope (Indiana University Press, 1994), I wrote:
“At the beginning of the 1992 campaign, few of us knew — let alone remembered — anything about Bill Clinton. If we were not from Arkansas, we had nothing for which to thank him. And our whirlwind relationship, our arranged marriage, was under the constant control of the great American matchmaker: the media. Clinton’s past was not only unimportant to him, but to us as well.
“In an earlier time, Clinton’s non-history would have been an enormous disqualification. Now it wasn’t because Clinton had one huge edge over his opponents: he looked and acted well on TV. Tom Harkin moved and spoke as mechanically as the Energizer bunny; Kerry’s personality and platform remained a cipher; Tsongas talked funny; Brown was didactic; but Clinton was at home.
“Against this advantage, facts faltered. The facts said that Clinton had been an unexceptional governor. He could claim better prenatal care programs and a decline in infant mortality, but at the same time the Center for the Study of Social Policy would rate the state only 41st on children’s issues in general. Arkansas also ranked — according to the Southern Regional Council — in the bottom ten percent of all states in average weekly wages; health insurance coverage, state and local school revenue; unemployment; blacks and women in traditional white male jobs; environmental policy and overall conditions for workers.
“An examination of his record raised warning flags, not the least of which were rocky relationships with labor and environmentalists. At the beginning of the campaign Clinton came under attack by his state’s AFL-CIO president who (before the national union ordered him to shut up) sent around a highly critical report on Clinton’s record. Labor, said Bill Becker, should expect Clinton’s help only 25-30% of the time. And the League of Conservation Voters ranked Clinton last among the Democratic candidates on conservation issues.
“Greater attention to Clinton’s record also might have brought to more prominent notice the major tax increases during his tenure. Or the comment by the union official who said that Clinton would slap you on the back and piss down your leg. Or the tendency to waffle on issues. . . .”
There were still more serious questions, well summarized by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of London’s Telegraph:
“The Clintons are attractive on the surface. As Yale Law School graduates they have mastered the language and style of the mandarin class. It is only when you walk through the mirrors into the Arkansas underworld whence they came that you begin to realize that something is wrong. You learn that Bill Clinton grew up in the Dixie Mafia stronghold of Hot Springs, and that his brother was a drug dealer with ties to the Medilin Cartel. You learn that a cocaine distributor named Dan Lasater was an intimate friend, and that Lasater’s top aide would later be given a post in charge of administration (and drug testing) at the White House. You learn that Arkansas was a mini-Colombia within the United States, infested by narco-corruption.”
For such reasons, by the spring of 1992 I had become convinced that the media portrayal of the Clintons was a fraud. Based on published material available to any reporter in the country, I wrote a “Who’s Who of Arkansas” listing questionable individuals and institutions in the state and illustrating their links. Included were Dan Lasater, Roger Clinton, Tyson’s Foods, Webb Hubbell, Buddy Young, the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, the Worthen Bank, the Rose law firm, Stephens Inc, Larry Nichols, Terry Reed, Jim & Susan McDougal, Gennifer Flowers, Mena, Ark., and even Mochtar Riady. The names would become familiar.
The reporters who actual uncovered the Clinton scandals included Alexander Cockburn, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Christopher Ruddy, Jerry Seper, J. D. Cash, Hugh Sprunt, Michael Isakoff, Roger Morris, and Sally Denton. For their troubles they were ridiculed, ignored, considered persona non grata and called “wackos,” “paranoids,” and “conspiracy theorists.” In at least two cases — a Isakoff”s piece on Paula Jones and a Roger Morris/Sally Denton expose of Mena — the Washington Post killed major stories just as they were about to go into print, apparently on orders of top management.
It has been a shameful period in American journalism. Never have so many journalists looked so determinedly away from the facts in order to maintain a myth. And to this hour they continue. What follows is a listing of Clinton-related stories that should have been investigated further or gotten far more play than they did. It is a reminder that Bill Clinton has not been the only problem we have had in Washington.
the orphaned stories
STORIES KNOWN BEFORE
THE 1992 CONVENTION
Bill Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers and his proposed cover-up of same. Papers such as the Washington Post refused to let their readers know what was in the Flowers’ tapes. For example, on the tape, Clinton says, “If they ever hit you with it, just say no and go on. There’s nothing they can do. I expected them to look into it and come interview you, but if everybody is on record denying it, no problem.” Clinton also called Dukakis a “little Greek motherfucker,” said that Cuomo acted as though he were part of the Mafia, and that Ted Kennedy couldn’t get “a whore across a bridge.” There are constituencies that might have appreciated knowing this before they went to the polls.
Another woman reports being approached by a Clinton aide at a hotel pool, who then arranges a sexual encounter with the governor.
A former Miss Arkansas appears on the Sally Jesse Rafael Show in July 1992 to say that she has had an affair with Clinton. Sally Perdue later told the London Telegraph that Clinton often dropped over. After the TV appearance she said she was visited by a man who called himself a “Democratic Party operative” who warned her not to reveal specifics of the affair:
“He said there were people in high places who were anxious about me and they wanted me to know that keeping my mouth shut would be worthwhile. . . If I was a good little girl, and didn’t kill the messenger; I’d be set for life: a federal job, nothing fancy but a regular paycheck. . . I’d never have to worry again. But if I didn’t take the offer, then they knew that I went jogging by myself and he couldn’t guarantee what would happen to my ‘pretty little legs.’ ” Perdue said she found a shotgun cartridge on the driver’s seat of her Jeep and later had her back window shattered.
Alexander Cockburn reports that Larry Nichols, the state employee who first brought the Flowers-Clinton and other liaisons to light, had recanted but only after a physical threat.
There is substantial evidence of illegal Contra and drug operations at Mena. Not only did most of the media fail to report the story, but Time, in a piece called Anatomy of Smear, attempted to discredit those who had made charges about Mena.
There are reports of questionable financial operations of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, set up by Clinton and first headed by Dan Lasater, who was later convicted of cocaine distribution and who helped Roger Clinton pay his debt to drug dealers.
On April 14, 1992, the Washington Times reports that “A federal-state drug task force secretly recorded in June 1984 Gov. Bill Clinton’s brother, Roger, a heavy cocaine user at the time, boasting that he often took women to the governor’s mansion for sex.”
Basic questions arise about Hillary Clinton’s role as a lawyer representing Madison Guaranty. These questions should have at least stalled her canonization by the media, if not encouraging some actual investigative reporting.
Serious questions arise about how Clinton, while running for state attorney general, came to be a part owner in Whitewater. Whitewater is basically a resort land scam. More than half the purchasers would lose their land thanks to the sleazy form of financing used.
Connections between Jackson Stephens and the founder of BCCI are revealed. Stephen’s bank provides a multimillion dollar line of credit that allows Clinton to stay in the primaries. According to a March 23 Alexander Cockburn story, “It was Jackson Stephens who brokered the arrival of [BCCI] into this country in 1977. He steered the bank’s founder, Hassan Abedi, toward Jimmy Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance. . . .Stephens then helped clear the ground, according to SEC documents, for Abedi’s secret takeover of First American Bankshares.”
SUBSEQUENT SEX STORIES
Important confirmation of the Gennifer Flowers story appears in an Art Harris Penthouse article in November 1992 that is widely ignored. Harris’ witnesses included Flowers’ mother, ex-roommate and a former boyfriend.
Reports from four Arkansas state troopers of Clinton’s sexual activities, both before and after election, are discounted, ridiculed or ignored. These include one trooper’s report that he had brought a woman to the governor’s mansion during pre-dawn hours on three occasions after the election. Also reported by troopers: one affair that lasted as late as January 1993. The New York Times runs a piece trying to discredit the troopers.
State phone call records and other bills, the LA Times reports, include 59 Clinton calls to one woman’s home and office between 1989 and 1991.
A state trooper reports driving Clinton to Gennifer Flowers’ apartment.
Paula Jones accuses Bill Clinton of sexually harassing her while he was governor. This story will be long ignored, ridiculed or underplayed.
Timothy Maier of Insight Magazine follows up his stunning story of Clinton administration bugging of over 300 locations during the 1993 Seattle Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference with word that FBI videotapes of diplomatic suites “show underage boys engaging in sexcapades with men in several rooms over a period of days.” The operation involved the FBI, CIA, NSA and Office of Naval Intelligence. Bugged were hotel rooms, telephones, conference centers, cars, and even a charter boat. Some of the information obtained was apparently passed on to individuals with financial interests in Asia. Also involved: alleged kickbacks on purchases of surveillance equipment by the spooks.
On July 3, 1997, Gennifer Flowers, interviewed by Penny Crone and Curtis Sliwa on New York’s WABC, claims that she had received threats — including death threats — around the time of her tape recorded conversations with Bill Clinton and that this was why she had made the recordings. Asked whether she thought Clinton was behind the threats, Flowers replied, “What I thought, after my home was ransacked, was that he was behind that — simply because I had called to tell him about it and it was his reaction it. I mean, he acted, he was aloof. Her didn’t act that concerned. He said, ‘Well, why do you think they came in there?’ And I said, ‘Well, why the hell do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, do you think they were looking for something on us?’ I said, ‘Well, yes.’”
THE VINCE FOSTER CASE
The mainstream media’s conviction that any concerns about Vince Foster’s death are paranoid delusions is supported by virtually no independent investigations. The media accepts without question shoddy, incomplete and misleading reports by two special prosecutors and resorts to personal attacks on critics. The issues raised by investigator such as Chris Ruddy, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Hugh Sprunt have not yet been answered.
Even Kenneth Starr is interested in the apparent cover-up and obstruction of justice by high levels of White House that took place after Foster’s death. The media is bored by the story.
Patrick Knowlton files a lawsuit against the federal government alleging extraordinary harassment aimed at dissuading him from sticking to his account of what he saw in Ft. Marcy Park not long before the Foster body was found. This harassment involved intensive and overt surveillance by at least 25 men, some which was witnessed by his girlfriend and by investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy. Knowlton’s car was also smashed by a person with a tire iron in front of witnesses. Investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard tracked down the car-smasher as well as a couple of members of the surveillance team and believes them to be stringers working for federal government intelligence and law enforcement.
Over the strenuous opposition of Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater supervising judges unanimously allow a 20-page exception by Patrick Knowlton to be appended to the prosecutor’s report on Vince Foster. Seven times Starr tries to get the statement of Knowlton rejected but the judges let it stand — despite the fact that it directly contradicts Starr and his staff on key points. Most of the media fail to even report the existence of this document.
THE JERRY PARKS CASE
Jerry Parks had been head of security for the Clinton Little Rock HQ. He was also known to be building a dossier on Clinton, perhaps for Hillary. On hearing the news of Foster’s death, he told his wife, “I’m a dead man.” Not long after he was, rubbed out on a Little Rock street in a mob-style hit. According to Parks’ family his files on Clinton were removed by federal agents. The murder has never been solved.
THE DIXIE MAFIA AND DRUGS
The Oct. 18 1994, Wall Street Journal runs a summary of the suppressed investigation into drug running through the Mena, AK, airport. The WSJ story recounts the ten year struggle of IRS investigator William Duncan to expose the Mena operation. Despite nine separate federal and state probes, nothing happened. Says Duncan — who eventually quit in disgust: “The Mena investigations were never supposed to see the light of day.” They were “interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was perverted.”
Writing in the Oct. 9, 1994 London Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that Arkansas was a “major point for the transshipment of drugs” during the 1980s and “perilously close to becoming a ‘narco-republic’ — a sort of mini-Columbia within the borders of the United States.” Evans-Pritchard also alleges that by “1986 there was an epidemic of cocaine, contaminating the political establishment from top to bottom,” with parties “at which cocaine would be served like hors d’oeuvres and sex was rampant.” He adds that Clinton attended some of these events.
In early 1995, the Washington Post suppresses Roger Morris and Sally Denton’s story on The Crimes of Mena, apparently a decision of top management.
Former FBI director William Sessions says the Foster probe was “compromised” from the beginning. Sessions had been fired by Bill Clinton the day before Foster’s death.
Janet Reno refuses to let independent prosecutor Dan Smaltz expand his probe into areas that might lead to exposing major drug dealing in Arkansas. .
The Tampa Tribune tells its readers about an ex-Mena CIA operative who backs up stories concerning the Arkansas drug/Contra trade in the 1980s. The ex-agent reports flying into Mena and Little Rock in 1983 and 1984 with larger coolers marked “medical supplies.” Who was on hand to pick up these “medical supplies?” According to the ex-agent, none other than several people quite close to then Governor Bill Clinton. The agent, now in jail, claims he bailed out of black ops after ex-CIA chief William Colby asked him to “neutralize” an American citizen. The Tribune‘s reporters have seen documents that support the agents’ claims.
While the press has no problem reporting such stories about Barry (or Dan Quayle for that matter), it has not told the public about the existence of a police tape of Roger Clinton describing his own cocaine trafficking and saying of his brother, “Got to get some for my brother; he’s got a nose like a vacuum cleaner.”
A former informant for a drug task force in Arkansas tells Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph that she supplied Bill with cocaine during his first terms as governor. On one occasion, according to the woman, “He was so messed up that night, he slid down the wall into a garbage can.”
In July 1995, The Progressive Review writes: ” Early in the Clinton administration your editor had dinner with, among others, a high White House official — a lawyer. The conversation turned to marijuana. The lawyer said that numerous staffers had asked how they should respond to FBI queries on the matter. The official’s reply was that they should remember that they would only be in the White House for a short while but the FBI files would be there forever. And what if friends or relatives actually saw them using pot? The White House lawyer’s response: “If you can’t look an FBI agent straight in the eye and tell him they were wrong, you don’t belong here.”
Hillary Clinton makes a killing on a commodities futures deal that defies the law of averages.
Louis Freeh, testifying before a House committee is asked whether he has ever before run into a case (as with the Clinton scandals) in which 65 persons refused to testify or had left the country. Freeh said actually he had: ” I spent about 16 years doing organized crime cases in New York City and many people were frequently unavailable.”
In just two matters before a House investigating committee (the FBI files and the travel office scandal) high White House officials, including Mrs. Clinton, said “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember” or something similar over 3,700 times.
There is growing evidence that the federal government had advance warning of the OKC blast.
The White House is found to have improper possession of about 900 personal FBI files. Knight-Ridder reports, “College-age interns and other volunteers had free access to hundreds of FBI investigative files kept in the White House security office during the first months of the Clinton administration. Nancy Gemmel, a retired security office deputy, said that during the first few months of the Clinton Administration ‘extremely young’ interns, 18 to 20 years of age, helped manage the heavy flow of paperwork. Other older volunteers also pitched in. All of them had access to a vault in the office that was used to store the background files. None of the volunteers, according to Gemmel, had been cleared by the FBI to hand such documents.”
LD Brown, a former Arkansas state trooper who worked on Clinton’s security details, claims he was approached on a bus in England and offered $100,000 and a job to change his Whitewater testimony. A second offer was allegedly made in Little Rock.
THREATS, VIOLENCE & DEATH
The number of people who have been close to, or worked for, Bill Clinton and who have committed suicide or otherwise experienced sudden death is at the very least a statistical anomaly. Seventeen men who have served Clinton as aides or bodyguards have died violently, four of them during the Waco massacre and the rest in plane crashes. Five other plane crashes have killed persons in the Clinton orbit. There have been six deaths of unknown causes, six apparent suicides, 3 murders, 2 fatal skiing accidents, and one fatal car accident. There have also been a number of beatings, including of a man who had videotaped Clinton entering Gennifer Flowers’s apartment. His tapes were seized.
Aside from the Vince Foster and Jerry Parks deaths, the following especially deserve more attention than they have received to date:
Ron Brown’s death. It is clear that proper procedure was not observed by the military medical examiners. With the discovery of a wound suggestive of a gun shot, calling for an independent autopsy would be a minimal and reasonable editorial position. Looking into other matters concerning the plane crash (including the disappearance of a recording device and the suicide of an air controller) would also make sense.
Kathy Ferguson and Bill Shelton. Kathy Ferguson was the ex-wife of Danny Ferguson, the state trooper who arranged Paula Jones’ visit to Bill Clinton’s suite. She allegedly committed suicide three months after the Jones case was publicized. She was considered a likely witness when it came to trial. A suicide note was found in her home but so were several packed suitcases next to the body. Her fiancé, state trooper Bill Shelton, allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself at the gravesite of Kathy Ferguson.
There are a steady stream of threats during the Clinton years, such as those allegedly relayed to two state troopers by a Democratic official in 1993 that they would be “destroyed” if they spoke to the press, and the phone call from Clinton’s ex-security chief Buddy Young warning them not to reveal anything.
Thomas M. DeFrank and Thomas Galvin of the New York Daily News describe in the Weekly Standard strong-arm tactics used by the Clintonistas against their critics. They write: “The president’s impressive people skills and abundant personal charm mask a streak of political cold-bloodedness and score-settling worthy of a Mario Puzo novel. . . If you pose a threat to this president, you’re not merely a political adversary — you’re clearly a bimbo, homosexual, homophobe, alcoholic, moron, sexual harasser, crook, dupe, fellow travelers, embezzler, pathological liar, or even murderer. At least that’s what every reporter, news editor, bureau chief, or network executive interested in what you have to say will be told.” Examples abound. Republican congressional investigators Jim Leach and William Clinger both found themselves being trailed by private detectives. False stories are spread such as the ones claiming that travel office head Billy Dale had been fired after an independent audit found financial irregularities. Editors and journalists are called and warned off sources. Talk show guests are yanked. Paula Jones, Sally Perdue, and other women involved with Clinton get viciously trashed, as have been various Arkansas state troopers. Conclude DeFrank and Galvin: “Enemies have been intimidated, inconvenient truths suppressed, and reputations shattered — all at negligible cost of the president.”
And that’s just part of the story.