Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Does Bill Graham Care More about Charity Than Discernment?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Does Bill Graham Care More about Charity Than Discernment?

Article excerpt

Evangelist Billy Graham is the latest prominent figure to defend President Bill Clinton in the Whitewater affair. He follows Barry Goldwater, who told the press and his fellow Republicans to lay off the president. Next came Garrison Keillor, who said much the same thing at a Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner.

The American Society of Newspapers Editors tossed mostly softball questions at the president after a luncheon speech.

In the hallways and in meetings, the editors debated whether they were being "fair" or might they have been "too tough" on the president?

Graham cautiously defended the president, noting his "good memory" of Watergate and the disappointment he felt after hearing the Nixon tapes of "my old friend." Graham told the newspaper editors that the press had gone too far in its examination of Clinton's private life. "None of us is perfect," he said, adding that Bosnia, Rwanda and the nuclear threat in North Korea are more important. He called for a "wall of prayer around Bill Clinton."

Graham is correct to call for prayer for the president. But on the matter of the press going easy on Clinton, it is good that he recalled his experience with Richard Nixon, because that president's character was at the heart of the Watergate cover-up, which brought him to impeachment's door and resignation. It is the job of the press to pursue the facts without fear or favor and to get it right.

Nixon's defenders slammed the press for its Watergate reporting. William Martin has written in his book, "A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story," that Graham came to Nixon's aid during the 1972 presidential campaign after George McGovern depicted Watergate as an example of the ethical poverty of the Nixon administration. Graham characterized the criticism by the Methodist McGovern of the Quaker Nixon as a "desperate" move, a sign that he knew he could not defeat Nixon on the "more important" issues. In a note to Nixon aide Bob Haldeman, Graham wrote, "It is amazing to me that people who made a hero of (Daniel) Ellsberg for stealing the Pentagon Papers are so deeply concerned about the alleged escapade at Watergate. …

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