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Flashback: Remembering the Media-Manufactured Scandal of 1992 that Saved the Clintons

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The 1992 presidential election, much like the current election cycle, was a historical oddity. The sitting Republican president, George H.W. Bush, was wildly unpopular with many people in his own party, and numerous Republicans and Independents sought refuge with an unlikely anti-establishment ally: Democrat California Gov. Jerry Brown.


Although Brown was even then unquestionably on the liberal end of the spectrum, during his 1992 presidential campaign, he adopted numerous policy positions that attracted a wide range of voters. He was especially attractive to anyone who viewed the establishment wings of both political parties with great skepticism.

Brown wasn’t expected to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but to the surprise of many, his anti-establishment message attracted a massive following. At the end of March in 1992, Brown shocked the world by winning contests in Connecticut and Vermont, and his success would continue into early April with a victory in Alaska. By the end of the first week of April, Brown was the only remaining serious challenger to the man who would eventually become president, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who had already endured a number of scandals that left many Democrats wondering whether he could win in November against an incumbent president.

Although Clinton was the firmly established frontrunner, many pundits at the time recorded Brown had seized the momentum and captured the imagination of many with his pledge to refuse donations over $100, his attacks on special-interest groups and corruption, his support for a flat tax, and his call for term limits.

The momentum Brown had gathered at the end of March, however, abruptly ended one fateful night in April, when ABC News’ immensely popular and influential show Nightline alleged it had evidence Brown had hosted drug parties at his home in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles while serving as governor of California. According to Nightline, which was then led by longtime broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, several anonymous California State Police officers who claimed to have belonged to the detail responsible for guarding the governor said Brown’s wild parties included rampant cocaine and marijuana use.


Brown vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “absolutely false,” and according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, “California State Police commanders, in charge of security at the private home of Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., when he was governor of California … denied receiving any reports from subordinates of drug use at the residence.”

The Times quoted Captain Robert Donnalley saying the drug allegations are “not only an attack on Jerry Brown’s integrity, but more importantly, as we see it, [they are] an attack on the integrity of the State Police.”

Even Bill Clinton expressed doubt about the allegations, saying, “I don’t consider people without a face or a name to be corroborating sources.”

Of course, none of that mattered. ABC News ran with a story that would later almost unanimously be thought of as bogus, Clinton gained back all the momentum in the race, and Brown lost handedly.

If any of this sounds familiar, it should. Although it’s entirely possible current Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump did do what the 12 women who have very recently made serious allegations against him said he did, there is absolutely no hard evidence of any kind that has been presented to prove their claims. It’s also exceptionally odd and politically convenient none of the accusers decided to make their allegations known until just a few short weeks before the end of a very long campaign cycle. Had these women come forward months ago, there would have been time to determine the truth and to remove Trump from the ticket had the accusations been supported by thoroughly vetted facts.


None of that happened, however, and many questions still remain: Why did these women choose to come forward in a seemingly coordinated way? Why did they wait until just prior to the election to make their claims? Why is the media just hearing about these stories now? Why are these women suddenly “brave” enough to come forward after many years of silence? Why are these stories taking precedence over the many similar allegations made against both Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Yes, many questions remain, and none of them will be answered until long after America has named its next president, which, I believe, says a lot.

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