MediaWatch: April 1997

Vol. Eleven No. 4

Yawning at Webster's Wallet

Did former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell get "hush money" from Clinton associates concerned he would tell what he knows about Whitewater? The White House claimed they were just helping a friend after his March 1994 resignation amidst charges he stole from his law partners. But viewers heard little about evidence that officials knew of Hubbell's importance to the Whitewater probe.

After Hubbell left prison, the February 25 Los Angeles Times noted that "the Clintons have stayed quietly in touch with Hubbell" through aide Marsha Scott, who visited him in prison and later traveled to Little Rock to confer as he went before a grand jury. Coverage? Zilch on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News.

A bit more than a week later, the March 6 New York Times first pegged Hubbell's payments at "more than $400,000 from about a dozen enterprises." CBS aired a piece, but not the ABC and NBC evening shows. The New York Times was back on March 20: "In late June of 1994, the Indonesian businessman James T. Riady saw President Clinton and some of his aides in five days of White House visits ending on Saturday. Early the next week, one of Mr. Riady's companies paid $100,000." Nothing on ABC, CBS and NBC that night.

On April 1 former Chief-of-Staff Mack McLarty and Erskine Bowles, who now holds that slot, admitted soliciting deals for Hubbell. The networks all ran brief items on their insistence they were just helping a friend in need.

That spin soon collapsed. White House lawyer Jane Sherburne wrote "monitor cooperation" by Hubbell's name on a 1994 Whitewater memo, the Los Angeles Times disclosed April 6. The next day, The Washington Times reported that two weeks before Hubbell quit in 1994, White House lawyer Neal Eggleston forwarded to the First Lady a memo noting Hubbell's Whitewater testimony to the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC). On April 10, The Washington Times discovered the First Lady asked the RTC in 1993 to keep her aware of any media interest, "including inquiries on Webster Hubbell's ties to suspected criminal wrongdoing."

"White House Knew in '94 that Hubbell Was Focus of Inquiry," read an April 12 New York Times story on how officials knew when Hubbell quit that he "had already emerged as a crucial witness." Coverage of all of these revelations? Nothing on ABC, CBS or NBC.

San Diego Padres owner John Moores told the April 12 Los Angeles Times that he paid Hubbell $18,000, but that Hubbell "did not provide him with an accounting of any services he provided." The networks also failed to provide viewers with an accounting.