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Fools for Scandal: How The Media Invented Whitewater Paperback – January 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Originating in an article in Harper's, this is the anti-Whitewater book. There is no Clinton scandal in that unfortunate little real estate deal, according to Gene Lyons, a columnist with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The scandal Lyons sees is in the media hype that elevated the Whitewater story to a level that threatens the Clinton Presidency. Indeed, in a defense that turns into a controversial direct attack on the integrity of the reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post, Lyons alleges that the whole affair "rests on facts that are somewhere between highly dubious and demonstrably false." In scathing polemical detail, Lyons questions the competence and judgment of the journalists involved, concluding that the Clintons are victims of a deliberate smear campaign.

From Publishers Weekly

On March 8, 1992, the New York Times published an article by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth. The headline said, "Clintons Joined S&L Operator in an Ozark Real Estate Venture." That venture later became known as Whitewater. Lyons has written this timely, important book (based in part on an article that appeared in the October 1994 issue of Harper's Magazine) because he believes that Gerth, the Times and other news organizations have created a damaging political scandal out of misinterpretation, innuendo and a bias against Arkansas. Lyons (Widow's Web) surely knows that his book, if deemed believable, will help Clinton's reelection campaign and cleanse some of the dirt from the image of the President and the First Lady. The task is to determine the credibility of Lyons, an Arkansas native who is no friend of Bill and certainly no friend of major media organizations that have, he says, bungled the Clinton "scandal" stories, sometimes with malice aforethought. The verdict: Lyons is credible more often than not. His dense analyses of specific stories from the New York Times and elsewhere point out errors of fact and interpretation. The book would be far more convincing, however, if it included copies of documents referred to over and over as proof of media incompetence and/or ill will. The appendices that are included are helpful but not sufficient to make the strongest possible case.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Franklin Square Press; 1st edition (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1879957523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1879957527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Liking Clinton, I always felt nagging worry as Whitewater was constantly mentioned. "How the Media Invented Whitewater" INVENTED!! Surely that's biting off more than could possibly be said with confidence and a straight face. Then I read the book. Apprehension turned to outrage. Jeff Gerth of the New York Times went to Arkansas looking for a story. He extensively interviewed Clinton's Commissioner of Securities regarding S&L regulation. Finding Gerth long on opinions and shakey on the facts, the Commissioner wrote Gerth long memos (reprinted in "Fools for Scandal") detailing the facts of regulatory activity, corroboration existed in state government files and the RTC office that had participated in the joint regulation that included ultimately kicking Jim MacDougal out of Madison Guaranty, then the RTC taking it over. With these facts, Gerth went on to write "news" stories that are half false and half disinformation, published at a time when Clinton's 1992 campaign was imploding and this kind of story could have been the last straw. But nobody is tougher than Clinton.

Lyons details each basic fact of Whitewater as a business, as a deal, and as a scandal. That it has been turned into a scandal is a tribute to how easily we can become victims of a hoax. Take the case of Jean Lewis, the so-called RTC whistle-blower. Since Madison Guaranty had no assets to recover for the RTC, Jean Lewis was assigned to other Arkansas S&Ls that had cost the government 20x more and did have recoverable assets. Jean Lewis announced to the coworker she was "out to change history" during the fall 1992 campaign and disobeying her superiors and her assigned case load worked full time to follow Madison Guaranty.
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Format: Paperback
After reading Jeff Gerth's Chinese spy stories in the NY Times, and realizing that they were mostly anti-Clinton innuendo with very few facts, I decided to read this book.
Lyons dissects Gerth's "journalism" word by word, innuendo by innuendo, half-truth by half-truth, lie by lie, smear by smear. Any reporter at a self-respecting college newspaper who was as dishonest as Gerth was in his Whitewater stories would've been immediately fired.
Before reading "Fools for Scandal," I was annoyed by Jeff Gerth's "journalism"; now I'm angry at both him and The New York Times, since they have obviously become tools of the most poisonous element in our political culture, the right wing.
When the history of this era -- with its right-wing smear machine and the corrupt journalism that is the machine's partner in crime -- is taught, "Fools for Scandal" should be required reading.
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Format: Paperback
Lyons makes it depressingly clear how the contemporary media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post, is owned by the Republican party. That fact became obvious to millions of previously naïve Americans in the aftermath of the stolen presidential election, and certainly explains reporter's fascination with Whitewater in the absence of public concern. At the time of Clinton's Presidency, I subscribed to the NY Times, and had no idea how corrupt and biased they were and are, but couldn't understand why they were latching onto the Whitewater story, when there didn't seem to be any substance. I now know better, thanks in part to this book.
It's really quite chilling to read Lyons' account of how processed the NY Time's version of "news" was, how much of the truth they covered up, and how few of the inconvenient facts they allowed their readers to see. The Time's just prints all the news that fits the myth. It's very scary that most other newspapers follow the mighty Times like sheep and just accept their accounts.
I really didn't have much sympathy for Hillary Clinton until I read this book, and now I have some insight into what she endured, and why she made certain decisions. It's a disturbing and uncomfortable truth that Lyons tells, but Americans need to know.
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Lyons's first book on the fabrication of the Whitewater hoax by the New York Times is even more compelling reading now than it was when it was published. In 2000, it is easy to see how the impeachment became inevitable; it will soon enough become evident why it failed (because the President is a sinner, but not a lawbreaker); and Lyons, almost alone among the country's journalists, demolished Whitewater as a credible scandal in 1996. Lyons demonstrates that Governor Clinton was not guilty of any abuse of power, because no such abuse took place. The Times did not make a mountain out of a molehill, it made it out of nothing at all. After Lyons briskly explains the banking law and practice that governed the decline and takeover of Madison Guaranty, the facts of Beverly Bassett Schaffer's appointment and actions regarding the supervision of this bank, there is simply no case left at all for believing the Clintons violated any standard of ethics or broke any law. And it doesn't take long for Lyons to demonstrate this--what he moves on to is an explication of how the Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post soon began to make their own news. They could not, after all, report show trials in the U.S. Senate, or throw up their hands in shocked amazement at the findings of the Pillsbury Report without raising questions in their readers' minds as to why these trusted newspspers had been mongering this scandal for so long. Rather than admit their error, they simply hammered home, day after day, ever more nebulous accusations of the Clintons' character flaws and raised new "questions" about their behavior.Read more ›
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