I used to have the naive idea that journalists based their editorial decisions on independent standards that obtained no matter who was involved in a news story.
If corruption was occurring, I, in my callow youth, thought journalists would condemn it whether it was Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, or Communists who were involved. I don’t believe that anymore, and haven’t for some time.
A big turning point for me was the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. At first, the media said, “If he had sex with an intern, he’s toast.” But, as it became clear that the president did have sex with an intern, the media began saying, “If he committed perjury, then he’s toast.”
When it became clear he had lied to a grand jury, the media decided, “It’s just sex. What’s the big deal? Let’s move on.” I knew then that the mainstream media had sold its soul.
The same thing is happening today with, irony of ironies, Bill Clinton’s wife. Her travails with Benghazi and her emails have gone through a similar goalpost-lowering process. She and the current president at first claimed that four Americans died in a “protest” caused by an anti-Muslim video. United Nations ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to five Sunday-morning television talk shows to claim the video was to blame.
Hillary Clinton herself told the parents of the dead Americans that the video was to blame and that she and the president would punish those who were responsible. They quickly engineered the jailing of the video’s producer, who is still afraid to speak publicly for fear of being jailed again.
When it became evident that Clinton had a separate, personal Web server, and that she used a personal email account, requests were made for those emails. Soon we learned that 30,000 of her emails had been erased and the server destroyed.
When she testified under oath late in October in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, all of what had been only suspected was confirmed.
She had lied about the video, to the nation and to the parents of the dead. She had destroyed emails. She had jeopardized top-secret information by passing it to political operatives via unsecured channels. She had ignored dozens and dozens of pleas from Ambassador Chris Stevens to beef up security in Benghazi.
The media, however, had moved the goalposts so far for Hillary that all of these damaging, incriminating facts became irrelevant to them. What was important was not the lies about the video, the callous disregard for Stevens’ concerns, the jailing of an innocent American to protect the meme that global terrorism was on the run, or the lies to the parents of the dead.
No, the story the next day was how wonderfully the aging Clinton had done by enduring her 11 hours of testimony before the mean Republicans.
Imagine if those standards had been in play in covering the Watergate scandal.
Jon Ham (@rivlax) is a vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.