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Stop the Madness of "Poor Susan McDougal"

Stop the Madness of "Poor Susan McDougal"
by L. Brent Bozell III
May 15, 1997

When Ollie North announced he was running for the Senate in Virginia in 1994, CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer invited him on the show, only to assault him with 26 questions about lying in 17 minutes: "How can I know when you are telling the truth?...What's the criteria to know that Oliver North is telling the truth? Only under oath or all the time?"

No doubt Schieffer would defend himself by pointing out that Col. North was embroiled in controversy and "the public's right to know" was uppermost in his thinking. So when Schieffer snared Bill Clinton for his show on April 27, shouldn't we have expected the same treatment? Yes, if fairness and balance are concerns for Schieffer, but they aren't.

Predictably, Schieffer never once asked whether Clinton had lied about anything. He only asked 18 questions in the whole show, and didn't ask about scandals until 20 minutes in. First, we had to hear about the volunteer summit, the budget deal, the tobacco industry wrangling, and that glorious Ted Kennedy-Orrin Hatch socialism-for-the-children health bill. When Schieffer arrived on the scandals at question number 12, he tossed softballs, such as: "If as you say there's nothing there, Mr. President, how can so many reputable, respected professionals keep pressing along with this?" Schieffer allowed the President to howl of the mistreatment for more than a minute, during which he hilariously proclaimed: "I have told the truth, I continue to tell the truth. That's all I can do."

Instead of smashing that glass jaw , Schieffer melted: "You suggested one time that maybe Mr. Starr was out to get you. Do you think that's what's going on here?" Then Schieffer suggested: "Many people have said to me when I was preparing to do this interview, ask why doesn't he just tell Susan McDougal 'Tell the truth, Susan,' and that would take care of it."

Do Schieffer and Co. really believe that Susan McDougal's truth about Clinton's involvement in urging an improper $300,000 loan from the Small Business Administration would clear the President? And if not, shouldn't Schieffer have asked: "If Susan McDougal feels telling the truth would free the two of you, why the silence? Why the contempt of court?" Instead, Schieffer allowed Clinton to drone on and on (without the badgering interruptions he inflicted on Col. North) about how he's just smiling and he's cooperating and he's telling the truth, oh yes he is.

Another thing: Why, if Susan McDougal testified in favor of Clinton, would Schieffer insist she'd be any more believable than her ex-husband Jim McDougal or David Hale, both of whom have been trashed by the press as unreliable witnesses? Where the media's bizarre coverage of Whitewater is concerned, perhaps the weirdest trend of all is the media's sympathy for Susan McDougal, who stands convicted of multiple felonies for defrauding the SBA of $300,000 that was never paid back; who, in reality, blithely assisted her then-husband in looting a federally insured S&L to the tune of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars; and who now faces trial on a charge of embezzling from conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife.

So why are reporters constantly beating their breasts at the suffering of poor Swindler Susan? It's hard to forget (I'm trying, I'm trying) Bryant Gumbel last October sending Mrs. McDougal love notes like "Have you any doubt that Kenneth Starr and his deputies are pursuing an agenda that is purely political?"

In February, National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg mourned on the TV chat show "Inside Washington" the inhumanity of Mrs. McDougal's imprisonment: "She is in increasingly stressful circumstances. They had her in solitary for a month. She's in handcuffs any time they let her out of her little cell area...I think it's a fair question. Imprisonment for contempt is supposed to be coercive. The question is: should it be punitive? What separates us from other countries?...Should it be punitive, with the kind of conditions, you know, with food being shoved through a slot in the door, literally?"

On April 23, "CBS Evening News" reporter Phil Jones echoed Nina's sad song of Susan: "She claims she's in solitary confinement for up to 22 hours a day...There are 12 cells, housing women on charges including murder. McDougal is in Cell Five. It has an upper and lower bunk, a closet, a sink, and a toilet." Jones noted a "local judge has issued orders for McDougal to be moved to better facilities, but it never happens."

Nowhere in this sob story did CBS allow a few seconds for an opposing viewpoint, suggesting that Mrs. McDougal is a convicted felon who is obstructing justice - in short, a public enemy. This crook deserves a segment on "America's Most Wanted," not valentines on the evening news shows.