MediaWatch: March 1992

Vol. Six No. 3

Koppel Contradiction

KOPPEL CONTRADICTION. On February 12, Ted Koppel interviewed Clinton over the letter he wrote in 1969 about avoiding the draft. Koppel announced at the outset: "It is, as Governor Clinton himself described it today, the account of a conflicted and thoughtful young man. It is quite a remarkable letter, actually, eloquent and revealing."

Koppel never charged Clinton with hypocrisy or dishonesty. In fact, Koppel appeared to absolve Clinton, suggesting that his actions at the time are no longer relevant: "And indeed, if we were electing that 23-year-old man, what he said and thought and felt at that time would be germane. Now, however, it is what the 45- or 46-year-old Bill Clinton thinks." Koppel didn't challenge Clinton when he asserted "all I've been asked about by the press are a woman I didn't sleep with and a draft I didn't dodge."

Compare this to Koppel's treatment of Dan Quayle on August 18, 1988, after questions first surfaced of Quayle's National Guard service. Koppel loaded this Nightline with long, accusatory questions, such as:

"Jeff Greenfield used the term 'elitism.' Let me use another term. How about hypocrisy? Here's a man who has really, since the age of 17, when he was an unabashed Barry Goldwater supporter, very early, precocious young man, politically active, he has been a hawk. He was very much in favor of the war in Vietnam and yet, as Jeff has just put it, leaves this image now of having said, 'here, I'll hold your coat, you go and fight in Vietnam, I'm going to join in the National Guard,' which is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, but is also something that you do because you know you probably won't have to go to Vietnam and fight."