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Geraldo Finds Another Empty Vault

Media Outlets That Covered Allegations of Conservative Bribes Skipped Covering the Official Rebuttal

Geraldo Rivera laid an egg on national TV on April 27, 1986 by headlining a two-hour syndicated special on the opening of gangster Al Capone's (empty) vault live. Rivera hyped a story that wasn't there.

Now Geraldo's done it again. Rivera repeatedly promoted the story (originated by pro-Clinton journalists at the New York Observer and the Web site Salon.com) that Whitewater witness David Hale was paid off by Parker Dozhier, an Arkansas consultant to The American Spectator magazine. [See box.]

On July 29, The Washington Post reported that the investigation by former Justice Department official Michael Shaheen found "many of the allegations of such payments were 'unsubstantiated' and 'in some cases, untrue,' and that no criminal prosecution should be brought." But Rivera ignored it. He's not alone. Here are other outlets that promoted the charges, but skipped Shaheen's rebuttal:

Time in 1998: The April 13 issue asked: "Did the king of the Clinton haters funnel cash to Kenneth Starr's chief Whitewater witness?" Richard Lacayo wrote: "FBI officials have been interviewing an Arkansas woman who says that after Hale became a Whitewater witness, he began receiving cash payments from men who were connected with Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported." The April 27 issue carried a caricature of Scaife with the caption: "Subsidizing probes, underwriting witnesses, chipping in for a deanship at a Malibu school, the omnipresent megamillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife owns the cashbox of the anti-Clinton crusade." Time in 1999: Zero.

Newsweek in 1998: In the April 13 issue, they first covered the allegations (calling them "thinly supported") in a story subheadlined: "The White House loves this tale of right-wing payoffs." In the April 20 issue, Jonathan Alter's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" touted the allegations of David Hale being paid off by Spectator staffers. Alter gave Starr a down arrow: "Good news: First big break in Whitewater. Bad: It may show your key witness was tainted." Newsweek mentioned the charge again in a May 18 article on Scaife. Newsweek in 1999: Zero.

U.S. News in 1998: The April 13 issue mentioned the charges (and Salon.com) in a paragraph. U.S. News in 1999: Zero.

CNN in 1998: On The World Today on April 9, Pierre Thomas reported that Starr would investigate the allegations, but noted the Department of Justice "questioned whether Starr would have a conflict of interest in investigating a witness so important to his case...Critics also point out another possible conflict of interest. The money allegedly funneled to Hale came from The American Spectator magazine. The magazine receives financial support from Richard Scaife, a millionaire associated with anti-Clinton efforts. Scaife is also a major donor to Pepperdine University where Starr has accepted a deanship." CNN in 1999: Zero on The World Today.

CBS in 1998: On April 3, Dan Rather said: "Reports continue to surface that this key witness for the prosecution, David Hale, may have been secretly bankrolled by political activists widely regarded as political opponents, people that Clinton supporters call Republican haters from the far right." CBS in 1999: Zero. - Tim Graham