The Washington Free Beacon and their investigative journalist Alana Goodman have done it again. And by “it,” I mean the job the rest of the political press will not do: performing an intrusive examination of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s past.
This past winter, Goodman took the trip down to Arkansas where she dug into the records of Clinton friend, the late Diane Blair. Goodman unearthed notes detailing how Clinton felt about her allies, her adversaries, and the major events that dominated the headlines in the 1990s.
“HC tired of all those whiney women, and she needs him on health care,” Blair wrote of Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) in the heat of the 1993 debate over health care reform. Goodman’s reporting also revealed that the Clinton camp had authored memos on how to deal with President Bill Clinton’s serial infidelity as early as 1992. And, of course, the documents exposed the fact that Clinton had called Monica Lewinski a “narcissistic loony toon” – a quote the press elevated above all others in this expansive scoop.
Much as they may have wanted to, the political media could not ignore a story. Reporters descended on Arkansas in an attempt to replicate Goodman’s feat. Frustrated, prominent journalistic figures who reported on the revelations uncovered by WFB, in what came to be called “the Hillary papers,” often prefaced their reporting with some disparaging remark about the source of the original scoop.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said the Blair documents were uncovered by a nameless “anti-Clinton website.” Time’s Joe Klein simply referred to WFB as a “publication.” The lengths to which reporters went in the effort to avoid saying the words “Washington Free Beacon” became so absurd that the famously self-aware website created a montage of reporters contorting themselves into knots in the effort to obscure the original source of the Hillary papers.
It is easy to attribute this undisguised antipathy toward WFB as merely an expression of disdain from establishment reporters for an upstart journalistic outlet that got the scoop over them. It might be a juvenile reaction, but it’s also a human and understandable one. At least, that was the benefit of the doubt that I was prepared to extend the press in February. But Goodman’s latest triumph suggests I was mistaken.
This week, Goodman returned to Arkansas where she followed up the Hillary papers with “the Hillary tapes.” In a taped discussion, Clinton was captured bragging about her role in the 1975 defense of a man accused of raping a 12-year-old. The tapes featured Clinton gloating about her successful use of a piece of contaminated evidence to secure a plea bargain for her client.
Tasteless? Sure. Impolitic? That’s what CNN’s political reporters thought. But it’s also good lawyering, and the story surrounding Clinton’s involvement in that case had been covered, though clearly not exhaustively, in 2008. It was easy to believe that Goodman’s latest scoop would simply fade away.
And it would have, had the press not again followed WFB’s lead and quickly bought reporters tickets to Arkansas. The fruits of one such expedition surfaced on Friday morning in the pages of The Daily Beast where reporter Josh Rogin unleashed a bombshell: the victim in that 1975 rape case believes Hillary Clinton, a figure CNN’s Brianna Keilar described as someone who has branded herself as a “champion of women and girls,” smeared her and put her “through hell” in order to get a lighter sentence for a rapist.
“I would say [to Clinton], ‘You took a case of mine in ‘75, you lied on me… I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I hear you on tape laughing.”
That sound you hear is Team Hillary scrambling to their battle stations. They’re at DEFCON-1 this morning. But the most egregious portion of Rogin’s report was not what the victim in this case said, but why we are learning about it now.
In 2008, current Politico reporter Glenn Thrush, who wrote for Newsday at the time, interviewed the victim amid a cursory vetting of her role in this case framed as a window into how Clinton “deals with crisis.” The unidentified victim told him at the time that she harbored no ill-will toward her attacker’s unidentified defense counsel. “But the victim now claims she was misquoted,” Rogin asserted.
“If I had known that day what I know now I would have told him exactly what I’m telling y’all today,” the victim told The Daily Beast reporter. Thrush declined to comment.
Again, the WFB has performed a major coup. Too major, in fact. The font of Goodman’s revelations, the University of Arkansas archives, has been closed to Goodman and her colleagues. This reporter’s skillful ability to navigate the archives simply could not be tolerated by the University staff.
The University’s library Dean Carolyn Henderson Allen, a 2008 Clinton donor to the tune of $500, informed WFB editor Matthew Continetti that she was “disappointed” in the publication’s decision to publicize the content of their archives.
But a tersely worded letter from a Clinton ally is unlikely to deter WFB’s intrepid reporters. While admittedly a biased publication, WFB has carved out a niche by making truly fresh news about a figure who has dominated American politics for more than 20 years. That should shame the rest of the press. They have had every opportunity to vet the once and future presidential candidate, and they passed.
It’s clearly a new world, and Clinton is already getting the vetting she deserved in 2008, even if it is conservative outlets who are forcing the press to do that job.