Double standards at the LA Times

Emmett Tyrrell
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Posted: Oct 09, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the editor of the magazine that broke the Troopergate stories, I have endured a decade of lectures from journalism's bulging choir of ethicists. In the Troopergate stories, The American Spectator had Arkansas state troopers attesting to Boy Clinton's philandering and to more serious matters, to wit: his misuse of government employees, misuse of government offices and vehicles, and even his misuse of government credit cards. All the troopers' stories were verified by documentation or by other witnesses' accounts.

Moreover, the Boy President's ithyphallic behavior continued in the White House, as was made luridly clear with the 1998 national debut of Monica Lewinsky. More importantly, it is increasingly apparent that while the president was attending to the cuties, his government was failing to attend to national security.

Nonetheless, I have for a decade been lectured to by the high priests of journalism about my deplorable ethics. Sex, I am told, is a private matter. The fact that unethical and occasionally illegal behavior is employed in pursuit of sex does not change the essential privacy of the sexual acts and all the moonlit nights that might accompany those acts. It is all very romantic. If sex is involved, all morally superior journalists shy away from reporting it. By this reasoning, a good way for a corrupt politician to cover up his corruption would be for him to become a sex maniac while taking the government to the cleaners.

So after all these lectures about the privacy of sexual acts, why have I not heard journalism's ethicists admonishing the Los Angeles Times? In the last days of Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for the governorship of California, the Times began reporting on his frisky sex life based on the stories of women whose recollections go back to the 1970s and who have remained for the most part anonymous.

Can you imagine if my troopers had remained anonymous? Surely they had good reason to remain anonymous. They could claim that they feared retribution, and as a matter of fact at least three of them were punished by state authorities. But who would take seriously a story of sexual excess coming from sources that remained anonymous? Apparently, the editors of the Los Angeles Times trust such sources, and they expect their readers to trust such sources.

According to the Times' mostly anonymous sources, Schwarzenegger groped women usually on movie sets, much as Bill Clinton groped Kathleen Willey in the White House. When Willey went public with the story, I began calling her assailant the Groper, as in "Win One for the Groper." Needless to say, the joke did not catch on. Many journalists remained in doubt that the virginal president would commit such a rude act. Yet when the anonymous sources accused Schwarzenegger of groping, he was instantaneously referred to as the Groper, as in "Win One for the Groper."

There is an obvious double standard at work here, and so I can imagine the Times getting a pass from the ethicists. Clinton is a Democrat, and the press sympathizes with Democrats. Schwarzenegger ran as a Republican, and the press disdains Republicans.

This suggests to me the one dreadful mistake Schwarzenegger made in his campaign. He should have declared himself an independent. The press is almost as sympathetic to independents as it is to Democrats. Do you recall when a particularly coarse ex-wrestler ran for high office in Minnesota as an independent? No sooner did he win the governorship than Jesse Ventura was being boomed in the press as a presidential contender.

I shall be interested in the Times' response if the ethicists do raise questions about the newspaper's reliance on anonymous sources. How will its editors plead? My suggestion is that they rely on Clintonesque reasoning. Simply claim that groping is not sex. Groping is politics. Certainly the paper treated it as politics. And apparently under certain circumstance, even rape is politics.

When the Los Angeles Times got its groping story, the editors ran it on the front page. When they had a story involving rape charges against Bill Clinton, they buried the story in the back of the paper. Of course, the rape charge against Clinton was different from most of the groping charges against Schwarzenegger. It had a source willing to be identified. Her name is Juanita Broaddrick, and unlike Schwarzenegger, Clinton has neither apologized nor admitted.