Strange Justice: The Selling of Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson

Strange Justice: The Selling of Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson
by L. Brent Bozell III
November 17, 1994

Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson have set a new standard. I refer not to the two Wall Street Journal reporters' weak new book, "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," but their perfect embodiment of the liberal media's arrogance.

Two women write a book with the thesis that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Joe Biden, are pathetic cowards who failed to destroy the Thomas nomination, who failed to question Thomas on whether he rented the porno movie "The Adventures of Bad Mama Jama," who failed to suggest the White House broke federal laws in their advocacy of Thomas. Then the authors proclaim on television "we are not political people." Come again? The book and subsequent media tour quickly establish these strident ladies have a simple goal: the destruction of Justice Thomas.

Their agenda was manifestly clear when Mayer and Abramson bounced from one media forum to another to promote their book, while arrogantly refusing in almost every outing to debate their work with opponents. ABC devoted almost two hours to the book - a 60-minute "Turning Point" program, a "Nightline," and three interview segments on "Good Morning America." From there, Mayer and Abramson appeared on "CBS This Morning," CNN's "Larry King Live," PBS's "Charlie Rose," and the local Washington "Fox Morning News."

The authors echo the anti-Thomas bias so prevalent in the press. When David Brock finished his book, "The Real Anita Hill," a more comprehensive, investigative, and conservative book, most outlets spiked him. ABC ignored him, even though they interviewed pro-Hill reporter Tim Phelps on his book "Capitol Games." ABC spokesperson Kathy Rehl said Phelps got an interview because his book came first. When asked if merit was considered in booking authors like Brock, Rehl replied "We don't consider things like that."

CBS also refused to invite Brock. Larry King and Charlie Rose demanded that Brock appear with a critic of his book, but liberals like Phelps, Mayer and Abramson refused to appear with him. So the invitations were withdrawn. Brock appeared on the "Fox Morning News" with a critic, and on NBC's "Today" show with Hill lawyer Charles Ogletree, who continuously attacked him as a liar. But when it came to Mayer and Abramson, all the media outlets not only invited them on, but with the exception of "Nightline," stuck to the authors' demand they they not be forced to debate Brock or other opponents. So: Brock gets ignored - twice. Mighty strange justice, indeed.

There's another incredible irony here. The national media which now focuses so much attention on the sex life of Clarence Thomas enunciate an entirely different standard for the private lives of Democrats, especially the President. Take ABC. They jumped on the Anita Hill story in 1991, doing 15 stories before the hearings even began. They devoted almost two hours to the Mayer-Abramson thesis three years later. But ABC reported only three stories on Gennifer Flowers, six stories on the allegations of Arkansas state troopers, and nine on the Paula Jones story. It gets worse: Peter Jennings later apologized for "overdoing" the Flowers story.

Print outlets have also been biased. While Newsweek excerpted the Mayer and Abramson book and added its own story by Lincoln Caplan, Brock's book would have gone unmentioned but for George Will's column in the magazine. U.S. News & World Report promoted the Phelps book and the Mayer and Abramson book, but ignored the Brock book.

The Wall Street Journal, whose news staff grows increasingly liberal with time, published an excerpt of "Strange Justice" from its own reporters, along with a shorter excerpt of John Danforth's new book "Resurrection." But the Journal failed to probe the personal life of Bill Clinton. The paper reported only three news stories that mentioned Gennifer Flowers in January 1992. One described how the Enquirer-Star Group made money after paying Flowers for her story, and another told how Hillary would urge voters to reject Flowers' story, co-authored by...Jill Abramson.

The Journal has yet to publish one complete story on the allegations of Arkansas state troopers. On the Paula Jones story, the Journal waited three months to mention Jones, and has since limited its coverage to mostly legalistic terms, covering the hiring of Clinton's lawyer and his motions in court. On the trooper story, Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray told The Washington Post: "It's two troopers who are trying to get a book deal. Without a great deal more corroboration, we wouldn't touch it." On the other hand, Murray finds it acceptable when two of his reporters get a book deal (and a movie deal with Turner Network Television).

"Strange Justice" is only the latest echo of the media's unfairness on the Hill-Thomas hearings. In 1991, network analysts mentioned dirty politics 30 times, blaming it 28 times on the Republicans. On 12 occasions, they blamed the Democrats for being too easy on Thomas. They really do believe this nonsense and have been trying to even the score ever since.