Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal

By Robert Busby | Go to book overview

6
The Media: Intrigue and Revulsion

The Lewinsky scandal was a newsworthy event, prompting an outburst of stories about the President, his private sexual liaisons, and the impeachment proceedings. While political scandal had, in the modern era, been a prominent subject for discussion among news outlets, both printed and visual, this scandal had an additional component. The Internet offered a new and unrestricted means by which the American public could acquire information about the ongoing scandal drama and, in many respects, it proved to be a revolutionary new tool in the conduct of scandal politics. It offered a further means by which the politicians in Washington, and the media in general, could attempt to sway the public to their respective messages and thereby shape public debate. The Internet, however, did not overshadow the more traditional means of information dispersal, and its availability was restricted at the time to a minority who had access to the appropriate computer technology.

The prospect of a further Clinton scandal offered the media an enticing opportunity, but also served up a problematic issue. The scandal inadvertently became a debate about more than obstruction of justice and perjury, and centered as much on sex and the private relationship conducted by Clinton. This broadened its appeal, but also made the content difficult to present without seeming to be prying into the private life of an individual. Moreover, questions were asked about how the President's private life impacted upon his public conduct, and whether the reporting of Starr's investigation was warranted and in the public interest. These proved difficult problems to resolve. The risk to any news organization of playing down the importance of the scandal was that it might allow competing news outlets to capture public attention, particularly as happened

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Defending the American Presidency: Clinton and the Lewinsky Scandal
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables and Exhibits vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Clinton Scandal Epidemic 15
  • 2 - The Lewinsky Affair 46
  • 3 - Protecting the President: Damage Limitation and the Lewinsky Scandal 70
  • 4 - The Starr Investigation 117
  • 5 - Impeachment and Trial 137
  • 6 - The Media: Intrigue and Revulsion 170
  • 7 - Public Opinion: Reluctant Observers 187
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 224
  • Index 248
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