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IN THE NEWSROOM, POTS AND KETTLES

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The Wall Street Journal took an entirely different view. It came out on Williams' side. The only thing you had to know was that the Journal was also a supporter of Judge Thomas' nomination.

Here is an excerpt from a Journal editorial on the matter:
"Juan Williams, a black journalist, has been taken hostage by the Washington Post. Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., that stalwart of free speech, has just ordered Mr. Williams to stop saying nice things about Clarence Thomas." The Journal goes on to pillory the Post for silencing Williams under the guise of a sexual harassment investigation against him.

The Journal blames the entire situation on a "politically correct" press corps which took the position that Anita Hill's charges against Judge Thomas were true.

To the Journal, a "politically correct" newspaper of Republican stripe, this was enough to caution most members of the working press corps against harboring thoughts that did not find a sympathetic ear in mid-America.

The Journal was obviously smarting because the Washington Post media critic had ripped the Journal for underplaying the Anita Hill story when it broke.

The Journal limited the Anita Hill accusations to a brief mention in its "World-Wide" summary.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post covered the Hill developments with six stories, and both newspapers carried two of the stories on page one.

Although I am not inclined to be sympathetic to the Journal's point of view, the newspaper does have a point here. I have been around long enough to know how a story can snowball when given the right coverage.

I remember the first thought that came to my mind when I heard Nina Totenberg reporting the first accusations on National Public Radio that Sunday morning.

I knew even then that the story would stand or fall on the extent to which it was reported in the next two days in such powerful newspapers as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. They all went for it in a big way, and Anita Hill became a media star overnight.

Totenberg rode the wave to prominence with the story. Totenberg now claims she got it through hard work. That same hard work also apparently paid off for New York newspaper Newsday, which also had the story.

Remember, the story broke on a Sunday morning, only two days before the Senate was to vote on Thomas' confirmation. It was a sensational story that captured the imagination. It grew throughout the day, creating such a furor that the Senate was forced to postpone its vote and hold a special session devoted only to Hill's charges of harassment.

When the hearings were held, Totenberg was also one of the commentators, along with Paul Duke, on public television. During one recess, Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, another of the conservative hit men, was a guest.

Simpson, who played a fairly smarmy role throughout the hearings, attacked Totenberg. She fought him right back.

It has since been revealed by the Los Angeles Times that following an appearance with Simpson on TV's Nightline, the two had a confrontation in the parking lot. The Los Angeles Times called it "a shouting match." Reportedly, Simpson chased Totenberg, waving a journalistic ethics code.

Simpson's version is that Totenberg said that he was "evil"--a characterization I find difficult to disagree with--and that she used the "f word" toward him.

How terrible.
Totenberg's reply: "I am not saying I didn't curse, but I did not tell him he was an evil man hated by his colleagues." It remained for the Journal to cast the most vicious lance into Totenberg's reputation.

On the same day the newspaper ran its editorial defending Williams, who was "politically correct" on its side of the political fence, Albert R. Hunt, the Journal's Washington bureau chief, attacked Totenberg.

Hunt's piece dredged up a story that was 20 years old to accuse Totenberg of plagiarism while she worked as a reporter for the National Observer.

This tactic has a kind of delicious irony in light of the fact that the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took such great delight in pointing out that Hill's accusations came ten years after the fact.

But Hunt was serious in making his charge. He pointed out that Totenberg had said in an interview with the Post that she had left the National Observer because she herself was a victim of sexual harassment at that newspaper.

Hunt found an editor at the defunct newspaper who said that Totenberg had filched some lines for a profile she had done on Tip O'Neill from a story that had appeared a few days before in the Washington Post.

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Tom Fitzpatrick