The White House vandal scandal that wasn't

By Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery

By Salon Staff

Published May 25, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

Read the story.

Thank you Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery for blowing the doors off the White House trashing scam.

For years the "liberal" press has been accused of loving Clinton and loathing Republicans. Yet here's a case where the mainstream press followed the lead of a few scandal sheets (including Drudge) and obscure comments from "sources" to suggest nothing short of an orgy of vandalism in Clinton's final days.

Try doing a word search on "White House trashing" and you will get a barrel of items on the initial report. But try finding a story on the GAO report. I could find only one story, from AP, on the GAO report.

Amazing. One of the ugliest stories ever of alleged misdeeds in the White House, and no one follows the story to report the final truth.

So much for the liberal media.

Clinton is owed an apology for this widespread, shoddy reporting.

-- Brian Deagon

Why do we keep letting the news media off the hook on this fiasco? The authors do an excellent job of demonstrating how the Bush administration suckered the press, but they are way too easy on the moral corruption of the reporters themselves.

1. None of these brilliant White House "reporters" ever asked to actually see any of the "damage" before writing stories about it. A freshman journalism major would get an "F" for such incompetence. But the media elite sail along unpunished and unreprimanded by their bosses.

2. None of these reporters -- allegedly dedicated to telling us the "truth" -- have exposed the dishonest Bush "sources" who lied to them.

3. I begin to suspect that at least some of the "sources" never existed. It would be so easy for a reporter on deadline to simply repeat the details of other stories, add an embellishment or two, then attribute it all to those good old nameless "sources."

4. This is a major story -- an apparent dirty tricks campaign by some members of an administration who piously swore to "change the tone" in D.C. -- but the establishment media doesn't seem to care.

It's the media elite who are the real scandal here.

-- Dean Rindy

It has become increasingly clear that the reporters in the media have become nothing more than lazy cloned sheep being led by one big right-wing, ink-stained cyber-wretch! There appears to be almost no investigative reporting going on anymore. All these "journalists" seem to do is "click" to get their reports from one source.

Without sources such as Salon, the lies and distortions of this "moral" and "decent" administration would go unreported. A question for mainstream reporters: Is it too much drudgery for you to get off your duffs and do some honest reporting, like ferreting out the truth instead of joining the pack of rabid right-wing hyenas tearing at the Clintons?

-- Pauline Graham Binder

So, neither Bush or his press secretary said that vandalism of the White House or Executive Office Building actually happened. If anything, they refused to say that it did. At most, they made jokes about rumors they knew were circulating and finally said that things like vandalism aboard Air Force One never happened.

Instead of taking their comments at face value, you say they "fanned the flames" with "coy responses." That isn't what they said, though. That is the construction you put on what they said. This is as bad as what the press originally did, report rumors as fact. Why don't you reporters stick to giving us the facts and let us draw the conclusions?

-- Jack Olson

The loss of credibility suffered by some members of the media when they reported total fabrications and rumors as fact is disturbing enough. It seems as though sensationalism has replaced real journalism for some reporters.

But what is even more disturbing is that most of the rumors and innuendo concerning White House vandalism seem to have come from members of the Bush administration. What was their motive? Was this part of their plan to restore integrity to the White House? Not a good way to start.

-- David Rupkey

This article sums up my complete frustration with the mainstream press. Someone hands them a rumor and they print it as fact. Your story only mentioned one paper (the Los Angeles Times) that actually picked up a phone to check a fact.

Whoever relied on those "mid-level Bush staffers" should out them. Sources that deliberately plant malicious stories ought not to have their identities protected.

Has anyone else noticed the 20-inch headlines detailing every so-called misdeed of former president Clinton, yet little or no follow-up as the rumors failed to pan out?

Has anyone else noticed there is little or no reporting anymore, just the same stories with the paragraphs rearranged?

And finally, has anyone noticed that in all these years, with all the crap thrown their way, the Clintons remain above it, not resorting to below-the-belt tactics, not pushing back when they could have, and retaining their manners?

Bush did nothing to "change the tone" -- it's still anti-Clinton, full of meanness and hate.

-- Lisa Karl

So, the alleged White House vandalism never happened. No big surprise: When it was still running hot and heavy in the news, no one produced a single picture of said vandalism, let alone a person who was willing to speak on the record about it.

Of course, no one has been punished yet. Not White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, for cynically promoting what he must have known was a lie. Not anyone in the press, whose job now consists of repeating what it is told, because actually doing some investigation might involve actual work.

So, before anyone displays some fake contrition -- which we know is bogus, after other journalistic failures like the Richard Jewell inquisition -- let's just go straight to the complete indifference phase and not insult our intelligence with phony regrets.

People should still lose their jobs over this fiasco. Otherwise, accountability doesn't exist, either in the White House or in the press corps.

-- Tom Grant

The lies and sordid rumors about supposed Clinton staff vandalism spread by the Bush team upon entering the White House is typical of the kinds of people that have been forced upon the nation, thanks to a politicized Supreme Court and a compliant, sycophantic press.

One has to ask: Why would an incoming administration risk being exposed by the press for such petty lies that had no basis in fact and could easily be disproved by standard journalism and confirming facts and sources? Especially given the recent history of the press dissecting every utterance of the previous administration.

The answer: Because they knew the press would continue to be overly deferential to anything done in the name of Bush and the Republicans, no matter how sketchy and questionable.

So the first act of the people who promise to restore "honor and integrity" to the White House is to spread vicious lies and rumors. So much for honor.

-- C. Maxwell

Salon Staff

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