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21 January 1999

Life in this celebrity press corps: No longer forever young

Synopsis: White House counsel Greg Craig broke the news. Miss Monica was not 21.

Speech by Gregory Craig
U.S. Senate, 1/20/99

Finally! Someone finally broke the news--Miss Monica was not 21. It was handsome Greg Craig, in the well of the senate, letting chips fall where they may:

CRAIG: There is no dispute about the critical facts that Ms. Lewinsky was young--very young--too young when she got involved with President Clinton. But her age didn’t change between November 1995 and January 1996. Her birthday is in July. She was 22 years old in November, and 22 years old in January, despite the fact that every manager persists in stating erroneously...that she was 21 years old when she first became involved with the president.

That’s right. As THE HOWLER has stated again and again, by the time Miss Mo flashed her thong at Vile, she was almost 22 and a half! (To fully enjoy our previous essays, visit our incomparable archives, below.)

But now that Craig has blurted Mo’s age, we restate why we’ve dwelt on this issue. We have said all along it doesn’t make any difference whether Mo was 22 or 21. But it made enough difference for conservative spinners to lie about it for an entire year’s time, knowing their story just sounded better when they made Mo forever young. And, as we showed last weekend (THE DAILY HOWLER 1/16/99), it made enough difference for Kenneth Starr to torture the logic of the Starr Report, trying to give readers the exciting idea that Vile’s love-child had been 21. That Starr wrote to mislead is abundantly clear. Please read our unmatched deconstruction.

Why have we dwelt on this silly affair? Because it gives us the following insights:

  1. It shows the press corps cannot determine even the most basic facts. On the single day of January 14, just as the Senate trial began, Mary McGrory and the Wall Street Journal editorial told readers that Mo had been 21. In so doing, they joined the list of major pundits who had been unable, in the course of a year, to straighten out even this simple, highly-charged fact about the world’s biggest ongoing news story.

  2. It showed this celebrity press corps can’t see through the simplest elements of conservative spin. Conservatives loved to say Mo was 21 because it made the story sound so much better. In the course of one full year on this story, the mainstream press was unable to see through this simplest, dumbest piece of their spin. To what extent, then, can we expect the press to see through more elaborate tales? Incredibly, Jay Leno knew Mo was 22! The Washington press corps didn’t.

  3. It showed the press is completely unable to pick out conservative spinners. When David Schippers spoke to the House last month, he falsely described Mo as 21. We have no idea if the know-it-all counsel was spinning, or just in a fog.

But, when Charles Ruff addressed the Senate this week, he showed other problems with the statement Schippers made. The celebrity press corps hadn’t said a word about those groaners, either.

No, their names are legion, the press corps members who have made Miss Mo forever young. And, though it tells you nothing about Clinton’s behavior to point out that Mo was 22, it tells a great deal about the denatured sleuths who were taken in by the age-of-Mo lying. Is there any lie you can’t tell these people, if they can’t establish even this simple fact? We’ve followed this story because it gives us a look at the howling incompetence within this celebrity press corps.

Postscript: To complete our record from last week, here was the Wall Street Journal editorial on 1/14:

WALL STREET JOURNAL: [I]n the end, Senators should ask, knowing what we have now learned about Bill Clinton, can we trust him with our highest office? What manner of man is it who takes advantage of 21-year-old interns?

Imagine--even the assiduous Journal had been taken in by the spin about Monica’s age! By the way, we love the part that we’ve set off in bold. Irony abounds when you cover these people.

Visit our incomparable archives: Enjoy every episode in our age-of-Mo series:

THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/98: Forever young
THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/9/98: Still forever young
THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/10/98: Leno gets it right!
THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/11/98: Still forever young, continued
THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/16/99: Forever officially young

For the record: We’ve never tried to list all scribes who said that Mo was 21. But in the course of even our limited efforts, here are the journalists we have caught reciting this treasured spin:

John M. Broder, The New York Times
Pat Buchanan, The Washington Times
Donald Lambro, The Washington Times
Tony Snow, The Washington Times
Jerome Marcus, The Washington Times
Dan Thomasson, The Washington Times
Mario Cuomo, Russert
David Maraniss, The Clinton Enigma
Jerry Seper, The Washington Times
Walter Shapiro, USA Today
Richard Morin, The Washington Post
Editorial page, The Wall Street Journal

And of course:

Kenneth Starr, The Starr Report

Obviously, that’s a tiny sample of all the scribes who have pronounced Miss Mo forever young. Meanwhile, a full list of the scribes we’ve spotted correcting the record:

Absolutely none