Images, Scandal, and Communication Strategies of the Clinton Presidency

By Robert E. Denton; Rachel L. Holloway | Go to book overview

10
The Framing of Network News
Coverage During the First
Three Months of the
Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

Kate M. Kenski

“Whether they themselves believe in their public character, or
whether they merely permit the chamberlain to stage-manage it, there
are at least two distinct selves, the public and regal self, the private
and human.” (Lippmann, 1922, p. 5)

In August 1999 The New York Daily News asked twelve presidential aspirants whether they had ever used cocaine. All said no but one. Texas Governor George W. Bush, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, refused to answer the question, setting off media speculation about his past behaviors. After a solid first place showing in the Iowa straw poll and despite no evidence that he had used drugs in the past, Bush was again asked questions about alleged past drug habits during “what was supposed to be a routine news conference in Austin, Tex., to introduce his state education commissioner” (Yardley, 1999, p. A14). Frustrated that the media leap onto rumors, Bush responded to the reporter: “And that’s the game in American politics, and I refuse to play it. That is a game, and you just fell for the trap, and I refuse to play.” Bush’s refusal to answer questions that he did not view as pertinent to his role as a public servant and the media’s persistence in asking questions about politicians’ personal behaviors underscores a larger debate in American politics—the debate over what is public and what is private. While the debate rarely was acknowledged by the news media during the ClintonLewinsky scandal of 1998, it was a debate acknowledged by members of

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