Print media never discovered any "Reagan Haters" only conservatives qualify as "Haters"

web posted June 1998

Students of history make distinctions of quality: there's history, which builds a story based on documented fact, research, and interviews; and there's psycho-history, which instead of dwelling on evidence, simply puts historical actors on the couch and attempts to read their mind as events unfold. Likewise, there's journalism, based on facts, and psycho-journalism, which simply seeks to guess the motivations of public figures.

In the last few years, reporters have introduced a new term into the media lexicon to describe Bill Clinton's adversaries: "Clinton haters." The April 11, 1994 Time published a story titled "Clintonophobia! Just who are these Clinton haters, and why do they loathe Bill and Hillary Clinton with such passion?" Reporter Nina Burleigh didn't seem to care if her mind-reading was accurate: after tagging conservatives like Rush Limbaugh as "haters," Burleigh casually added: "Both profess not to hate Clinton." She then referred to "Clinton haters" twice more.

Is "hater" the standard way the media describes a President's opponents, whether they're Republicans or Democrats? To determine the journalistic usage of "hate" terms, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to find all mentions of the terms "Clinton-hater," "Clinton-basher," and "anti-Clinton," (compared to "Reagan hater," "Reagan basher," and "anti-Reagan") in Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post. For Reagan, analysts reviewed stories from 1981 through 1988; for Clinton, from 1992 through mid-April 1998. These publications contained: 63 uses of "Clinton hater," compared to one use of "Reagan hater"; 106 references to "Clinton-bashers" or "Clinton-bashing," compared to 17 references to "Reagan-bashers"or "Reagan-bashing"; 55 mentions of "anti-Clinton" groups or efforts compared to two mentions of an "anti-Reagan" force.

Analysts also checked these variants for independent counsel Ken Starr since 1994 ("Starr-hater," "Starr-basher," or "anti-Starr." Time, U.S. News & World Report, and The New York Times have never carried these terms. Newsweek made one mention of Hillary Clinton as a "veteran Starr-basher." The Washington Post carried two mentions of "Starr-bashing." No one was a "Starr hater."

Magazines: Leading the Hate Hunters. Time led the hate-labeling pack, with 28 designations of "Clinton hater," with almost half of them (13) in the last four months. Time carried 11 mentions of "Clinton-bashing," and 14 mentions of "anti-Clinton" activists or activities.

By itself, "anti-Clinton" seems an inoffensive term, but Time regularly applied modifiers like "fiercely" or "virulent" or "obsessive" or "right-wing" to the term. The April 13, 1998 Time referred to "Richard Mellon Scaife, the rabidly anti-Clinton billionaire, and The American Spectator, the gleefully anti-Clinton magazine that Scaife has supported." A February 9, 1998 article called Scaife a "super-Clinton hater."

In the June 9, 1997 edition, Time reporter George Church described Paula Jones' first press conference, "where she shared a stage with Clinton haters. That helped to convince many that Jones was a tool, witting or unwitting, of the rabid right." In the Reagan years, Time ran only three uses of "Reagan bashing."

Newsweek carried 17 references to "Clinton haters," 14 uses of "Clinton bashing," and 19 "anti-Clinton" designations. In a May 16, 1994 article, Mark Hosenball argued "It is true that Paula Jones has been egged on by an odd collection of right-wingers and Clinton haters." In the April 27, 1998 issue, Hosenball wrote: "The evidence linking Starr to conservative Clinton-haters traces back to a single figure: Richard Mellon ScaifeScaife is also a fervent Clinton-hater who has spent millions trying to undermine the President."

Newsweek carried four mentions of "Reagan-bashing" and one use of "Reagan hater." In 1987, Jonathan Alter explained Sam Donaldson's jobs as both an ABC reporter and commentator "exposes him to critics who label him a Reagan-hater...In truth, his politics don't interfere with his reportage."

U.S. News & World Report carried 16 designations of "Clinton haters," nine of "Clinton bashing," and 21 "anti-Clinton" mentions. In a November 7, 1994 election preview, the magazine charged: "The most virulent Clinton haters charge that Hillary Rodham Clinton holds the real power and blackmails her husband." In a May 17, 1993 column, Mortimer Zuckerman began: "The media may be in a frenzy trying to bash Bill Clinton, but the public is focused on something else: the sagging U.S. economy." Only one U.S. News story cited "Reagan bashing."

Newspapers: "Bash" Is The Preferred Term. In eight years, The New York Times never labeled anyone a "Reagan hater," although three stories carried the term in quotations from political analysts. Only one story carried the word "anti-Reagan," and only two mentioned "Reagan bashing." In a 1987 review of the PBS show The Kwitny Report, TV critic John Corry dismissed the episode alleging Reagan's connections to the Mafia as "dreary Reagan bashing." By comparison, the Times applied the term "Clinton hater" once, and variants of "Clinton-bashing" 17 times.

The Post discovered conservative hate in a May 27, 1994 front-page Sunday story by Ann Devroy: "Bill Clinton's enemies are making their hatred clear, with a burning intensity and in some cases with an organized passion." Variants of "Clinton-bashing" were employed 52 times by Post reporters.

The Sunday before the 1992 convention, Post reporter Dan Balz began an article "Get ready for the bashing of Bill Clinton." Four days later, Ruth Marcus started her piece: "The Republican gathering here was expected to be a festival of Clinton-bashing. As it turned out , the target has been not only the candidate, but his wife Hillary." (Two additional articles mentioned "Hillary-bashing.")

In January 1997, the Post's Kevin Merida described the Paula Jones complaint as announced at "a convention of Clinton-bashing conservatives." Five months later, Merida repeated the phrase verbatim.

In the Reagan years, Washington Post reporters never used "Reagan hater," although two articles carried the term in quotations. Seven Post news stories mentioned "Reagan bashing." In one 1985 piece, business reporter Peter Behr decried both sides of the trade debate, writing "Reagan is inviting the bashing by continuing to avoid the trade dilemma."

Politics creates passions that inflame the whole range of emotions -- joy and sadness, inspiration and disillusionment, love and hate. Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, fuels all of these. But reporters proved their liberalism when they suggested in their stories, subtly or unsubtly, that only one President was subject to unrelenting attack by a group of obsessed "haters."

Originally printed by the Media Research Center.

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