ANALYSIS: MEDIA WATCH - Clintons score new publicity low with pardon furor

When you're analyzing content, you must measure both the quantity and quality of coverage. The worst possible scenario is to have a huge volume of highly unfavorable coverage, which is just what the Clintons have gotten.

When you're analyzing content, you must measure both the quantity and quality of coverage. The worst possible scenario is to have a huge volume of highly unfavorable coverage, which is just what the Clintons have gotten.

When you're analyzing content, you must measure both the quantity and quality of coverage. The worst possible scenario is to have a huge volume of highly unfavorable coverage, which is just what the Clintons have gotten.

If ever anyone needed sage PR advice to get themselves out of a jam, it's former President Bill Clinton, his wife, Hillary, and their extended family. The manner in which they collectively handled the last-minute presidential pardons ranks as one of the most ill-advised PR blunders ever.

TV pundits and talk show panelists have had more than a month to stew over the unfolding story of pardons involving one of the world's most wanted fugitives, questionable donations, votes in New York, political connections, and sidestepping Justice Department procedures. Coverage of the scandal has been enormously one-sided, with most journalists weighing in against the Clintons. As reflected in media coverage, the US public appears to be quite simply offended at how the whole matter was handled.

The outrage is widespread and bi-partisan. To illustrate the magnitude of the American public's disapproval of the entire pardon controversy, Media Watch could point to any one TV host: CNN's Larry King; NBC's Tim Russert; Fox's Bill O'Reilly? CNBC's Chris Matthews? Take your pick. Or how about Jimmy Carter's widely quoted statement that Clinton abused his power and disgraced the White House? 'President Clinton did abuse it (the presidential pardon) and brought discredit to the White House because of it.' (Hannity & Colmes program on Fox, February 23).

It seems very few in the media are at all sympathetic to the Clintons at the moment. There was evidence in the media that liberals and Democrats were abandoning them. CNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (February 26) quoted a piece by liberal New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who wrote, 'The Clintons are a terminally, unethical and vulgar couple and they've betrayed everyone who ever believed in them... Bill Clinton has been a disaster for the Democratic Party. Send him packing.'

Some even saw Hillary's disavowal of any knowledge and suggestions that reporters ought to discuss the matter with her husband as an effort to distance herself from him. But she did not appear successful in disassociating herself from the scandal. Within less than two months of taking office, Zogby polls showed Hillary with a 22% job performance rating, while noting that this was the same level that Nixon had when he resigned (CNBC, February 26). Fox's The Edge with Paula Zahn (February 28) and others reported on calls for her own resignation by the liberal New York Observer.

The one-sided coverage was a result of a lack of people willing to argue in favor of the Clintons' actions. There were indications that the Democratic Party was not supporting either Bill or Hillary Clinton. Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley told Geraldo Rivera, 'Democrats protected Clinton during his presidency because it was in their interest to do so. Now it's in their interest to squash him because he's hurting the party' (CNBC, February 28).

Media coverage is also focusing more on the suspicious circumstances surrounding the pardons as opposed to the actual evidence. It appears that in the court of public opinion, the Clintons are facing yet another uphill battle to regain credibility with the American public.



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.



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