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Caveat lector

1 December 1998

Read on: Close enough for government reporting

Synopsis: Standards of scholarship also slid when the Times reviewed perjury convicts.

In Truth, Even Little Lies Are Sometimes Prosecuted
William Glaberson, The New York Times, 11/17/98

William Glaberson really thought he had it--proof that people are locked up in jail for perjury like what Vile Clinton did:

GLABERSON: [Our] review of perjury cases also shows that, although lies about sex are rarely the subject of perjury prosecutions, there are precedents that come quite close to the accusations against Mr. Clinton.

Finally! The analysts purposefully settled themselves in, preparing to do some real learning. Apparently, the great Times had now sniffed out the perjury perps whose conduct was “quite close” to Vile Clinton’s!

But wouldn’t you know it? Upon some reflection, the cases aren’t at all what Vile did. Here’s the first of two cases that Glaberson cites--the case of Pam Parsons, convicted of perjury “for her testimony in a civil libel lawsuit she had filed against Sports Illustrated” in 1984:

GLABERSON: The magazine reported that she had had a lesbian relationship with at least one team member and recruited players “with sex in mind.” Ms. Parsons and the player testified, denying, among other things, that they had frequented a lesbian bar. The jury in the libel case decided for the magazine. Then, the women were indicted for perjury. Both pleaded guilty.

Glaberson’s narration is a bit disjointed. But, sifting through the jumbled prose--hey, good enough for condemning a president!--we gather that Parsons responded to a truthful magazine article by suing the magazine in a perjurious way. If this sounds anything at all like what Vile Clinton may have done, please report to a drug treatment center.

And who was the second perj perp whom Glaberson found? Here we go again--Barbara Battalino, who had lied about professional misconduct that she had committed, conduct that had been the direct issue at question in the lawsuit in which she had lied.

Clinton ain’t exactly accused of that either. He’s accused of lying about a tangential matter, involving Monica Lewinsky, in a case concerning alleged conduct with Paula Jones. Does Battalino’s conduct “come quite close” to Clinton’s? It’s a closer fit than the absurd Parsons case. But it’s not what you’d call a real match.

To the Times, the fact that they could dig up two cases like this, going all the way back to 1984, meant that cases like Clinton’s do so go to trial. To us it seemed to say quite the opposite--you can look and look as hard as you want, and no one seems to be sitting in jail for the thing that Vile Bill may have done.

Nope. Battalino, and certainly Parsons, don’t “come quite close” to what Clinton may have done. But it’s close enough for government work, and close enough for page one of the Times.