(The Obama White House, besieged by three scandals this week, is reminiscent of the scandal-plagued Clinton White House in the 1990s, many of which were pushed into the national agenda by talk radio programs. The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency: The Story of the Talk Radio Giants Who Shook Up the Political and Media Establishment, available for a special deal on Amazon until Memorial Day, about talk radio and the Clinton controversies that ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.)
President Bill Clinton, perhaps forgetting he had the most powerful platform in the world, became irate during one radio interview with KMOX in St. Louis in May 1994.
“I have determined that I’m going to be aggressive about it. After I get off the radio today with you, Rush Limbaugh will have three hours to say whatever he wants and I won’t have any opportunity to respond, and there is no truth detector. You won’t get on afterward and say what was true and what wasn’t,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s remark launched one of Rush’s enduring catchphrases. After the interview, Limbaugh said, “I am the truth detector.” Limbaugh has since referred to himself as “America’s Truth Detector,” among his many informal titles.
Clinton, and all the baggage he brought with him from Arkansas, was a true gift to talk radio. Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate, Chinagate, Monicagate and various other matters would plague the Clinton presidency for eight years.
It was talk radio, with the help of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page that put the Whitewater scandal on the national agenda. The controversy traced back to 1978 with a real estate investment by the Clintons along with Jim and Susan McDougal into the Whitewater Development Corp., with Hillary’s employer, the Rose law firm handling the legal business for the McDougals. David Hale, a former municipal court judge, alleged Gov. Clinton pressured him to provide an illegal $300,000 loan to the McDougals. The questions followed the Clintons to the White House in part because Hillary’s Rose law partners Vince Foster and Webster Hubbell each got administration posts.
After the Whitewater scandal saw the departure of White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum and Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, a feature in the Wall Street Journal asked people who were involved in the Watergate scandal if there were parallels with that and the Whitewater scandal. While other figures took a stodgy, scholarly approach, Liddy had fun, playing on his Watergate past.