Newsweek Changes View of Paula Jones: One of Clinton Accuser's Harsh Critics Finds Merit in Her Case Two Years Later

Article excerpt

Newsweek hit the streets yesterday with an unlikely heroine on the cover. There is Paula Corbin Jones, a woman the magazine vilified two years ago, looking America straight in the eye, beseeching it to believe her, not President Clinton.

The surprisingly sympathetic cover story on Mrs. Jones perhaps marks a revisionist trend in the media's treatment of the former Arkansas state worker and her sexual-misconduct lawsuit against Mr. Clinton.

The same press that canonized Anita Hill and demonized Mrs. Jones has found credibility in Mr. Clinton's accuser as her case heads for the Supreme Court next week. Newsweek and its Washington bureau chief, Evan Thomas, were particularly tough on Mrs. Jones after she went public with her charges in 1994.

"In a weird way, this is a strange mea culpa," said Tim Graham, an analyst at the conservative Media Research Center. "Lets put it this way: Perhaps no one is more responsible for disparaging Paula Jones than Evan Thomas and the people at Newsweek. I think what's fascinating about this article, it doesn't admit that."

Mr. Thomas, who on a TV talk show labeled Mrs. Jones "some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer park," wrote this week's favorable cover story.

His article says her version of events is stocked with "believable evidence" that Mr. Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas, summoned the 24-year-old state worker to a Little Rock hotel room and that afterward she immediately complained to friends that he had made lewd advances.

Mr. Clinton denies her charges.

"Arguably, the main reason more people don't take her story seriously is that the mainstream media have been skillfully spun by the White House and Clinton's lawyers," Newsweek says.

How successful was the White House? "In media reports, she tends to be portrayed as a trailer-park floozy digging for money and celebrity," Mr. Thomas writes.

In May 1994, Newsweek called Mrs. Jones' lawsuit "probably a loser" and said she was "egged on by an odd collection of right-wingers and Clinton haters."

Stuart Taylor Jr. first broke the mold of the establishment media's coverage. In November, he concluded in a long article in American Lawyer that Mrs. Jones has a strong case, much stronger than that of Miss Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. …