Did NBC News Save Clinton?, Delay of broadcast of interview with alleged Clinton rape victim Juanita Broaddrick, Rapegate shocker threatened Clinton’s popularity, Lisa Myers To Broaddrick: The bad news is you’re very very credible, Newsmax February 19, 1999


Did NBC News Save Clinton?, Delay of broadcast of interview with alleged Clinton rape victim Juanita Broaddrick, Rapegate shocker threatened Clinton’s popularity, Lisa Myers To Broaddrick: The bad news is you’re very very credible, Newsmax February 19, 1999


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From NewsMax February 19, 1999.

“Did NBC News Save Clinton?”

“What might have happened had NBC News broadcast its Jan. 20 interview with alleged Clinton rape victim Juanita Broaddrick during President Clinton’s impeachment trial?

With Clinton’s sky-high poll numbers weathering a torrent of Sexgate revelations for more than a year, many believe the answer to that question is: nothing.

But American public opinion wasn’t always impervious to the Monica maelstrom. In fact, polling data from the first days of the scandal reveals that Clinton’s popularity went into a tailspin almost immediately; one which, if repeated during his Senate trial, could have very well cost him his presidency.

Just three days after the Lewinsky scandal hit the mainstream press, the New York Post reported: “President Clinton’s popularity has plunged a whopping 10 points since he was accused of having sex with an intern.” The news the White House most feared came from CNN and Fox News, both of which revealed that Clinton’s support had dropped to 50 percent and 49 percent respectively. (New York Post, Jan. 24, 1998)

Two days later, things got worse, with a Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll showing a 17-point decline. “The share of Americans who say they have positive feeling towards [Clinton] has dropped to 40 percent from 57 percent in just one week.” (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26, 1998)

Significantly, neither the Post nor Journal report made mention of Clinton’s “job approval rating,” which the media would later use as the primary indicator to measure the impact of the Lewinsky scandal.

Days passed without another major new poll. In the interim, Andy Blieler — Lewinsky’s married ex-boyfriend — held a nationally televised press conference on the front lawn of his Oregon home, where Blieler’s lawyer, Terry Giles, denounced Lewinsky as a “stalker.” Giles then introduced the world to the most damaging anti-Monica quote to come out of the entire scandal:

“I’m going to the White House to get my presidential kneepads,” Monica allegedly told Blieler’s wife.

But that was merely the warm-up act. With amazing bicoastal precision, Giles wrapped up his narrative of the Blieler duo’s travails just as Clinton entered the well of the House to present his State of the Union address.

Clinton’s performance was one of grace under the incredible pressure of the mounting scandal, most pundits agreed. The next Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey cited Clinton’s job-approval rating as the defining poll number. It was then up to 78 percent, 38 points higher than his favorability rating had been just weeks before.

For the next 12 months, as Monicagate lurched toward impeachment, Clinton’s job-approval rating bumped along the stratosphere, with the press making only passing reference to the fact that his personal poll numbers for honesty, trustworthiness, and credibility hovered in the low double digits.

It was the perception of Clinton’s invincible popularity that saved him at the end of the day, with normally reasonable senators like Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, admitting that he was impeachably guilty of high crimes but not removable because of his public support.

Enter Juanita Broaddrick, who told her story to NBC’s Lisa Myers at the height of Clinton’s impeachment trial — only to see the network put her interview on ice for the duration.

NBC executives surely worried about the impact of Broaddrick’s rape allegation against Clinton as they ran out the clock. The Rapegate shocker threatened Clinton’s popularity as no other revelation had since the opening days of the Lewinsky scandal.

Here, the White House was faced with an allegation of violent sexual assault that eyewitnesses say left its victim hysterical, bruised, and bleeding. “It’s just about sex,” had worked for 12 months. How would “It’s just about rape” play in Peoria?

Certainly NBC remembered that when Clinton’s early Monicagate poll numbers went over the cliff, it really was just about sex. There was no semen-stained dress to prove Clinton’s perjury in the Paula Jones case. White House secretary Betty Currie had yet to tell Ken Starr’s grand jury about Clinton coaching her with lies “to refresh his memory.” And Monica herself wouldn’t turn state’s evidence for another six months.

It was just about sex between a 21-year-old girl and a 50-year-old president — in the same room where Lincoln had planned his Civil War strategy with Grant; where Roosevelt and Churchill decided the fate of the world 80 years later. And for a short few weeks, the public was repulsed and disgusted.

Nearly a year to the day after Clinton’s political lifesaving State of the Union address, NBC tentatively scheduled Juanita Broaddrick’s interview for broadcast. But three days earlier, Broaddrick had been warned there was trouble back at the ranch.

“The good news is, you’re credible,” Lisa Myers told her. “The bad news is, you’re very, very credible.” Network brass was panicking after interviewing five corroborating witnesses and putting Broaddrick through a background check from which she emerged, she was told, “squeaky clean.”

And there were other concerns. Though they’ve generally kept this news from the rest of the country, journalists know that the House vote to impeach Clinton was swayed by secret material stored in a locked and guarded evidence room in D.C.’s Gerald Ford Building.

This was the information House Majority Whip Tom DeLay referenced when he suggested that senators “pay a visit to the evidence room and you might just see 67 votes [to convict] appear out of thin air.” Congressman who have reviewed the information describe it as “horrific” and “nauseating.” One was reduced to tears.

But the Senate, hell-bent for acquittal, declined DeLay’s invitation.

The material the majority whip alluded to is known to deal with Broaddrick’s rape allegation — and possibly other similar charges against Clinton. Sources in Arkansas say that at least two other women have told friends privately that they were also sexually assaulted by Clinton.

Would NBC’s timely broadcast of Juanita Broaddrick’s story have caused it all to come out? Would one Rapegate revelation after another have replicated in spades the public’s early revulsion over Monicagate? If Clinton’s popularity began to slide all over again, how would Democrats explain their votes to acquit?

Apparently, those are questions NBC News decided were better left unanswered — even at the risk that history would be altered by “newsmen” who kept from the public vital information about a president they feared was all too guilty.”


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