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Now She Tells Us

Talk's Lucinda Franks: Abused By A Vast Media Conspiracy?


Posted Friday, August 6, 1999

        Lucinda Franks is sick, "mighty sick," of having to answer questions from people who think her controversial Talk piece on Hillary Clinton depicts the First Lady as linking her husband's philandering to the "abuse" that "scarred" him as a child. "[S]he never makes the connection between his chaotic childhood ... and his sexual infidelities. Hillary Clinton never made that connection," Franks tells Katharine Seelye in yesterday's New York Times.

        Gee, where could people have gotten the idea that a connection was there? Could it have been from Franks' article itself, in which the paragraphs on Bill Clinton's "weakness" are immediately followed by a discussion of his childhood "abuse," so as to cleverly give the impression that Hillary was making exactly the link Franks now denies? If that impression is false, it was Franks who skillfully gave it, and who by doing so earned herself several million dollars worth of free publicity. Franks complains to Seelye: "There seems to be no end to the way the press misinterprets, manipulates, and quotes out of context in order to create a story. ... Two separate parts of her interview about sexual infidelities and her feelings about her husband, it's all being squashed together." No, again. If there was squashing and manipulating, Franks did it, even using present tense ("I tell Hillary I read his mother's autobiography...") to imply that the two "unconnected" quotes occurred one-right-after-the-other in the course of a single, seamless discussion.

        Reckless, manipulating reporters might also (as the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz noted) have heard Franks herself on Larry King Live this Tuesday. King asked Franks whether people had "misinterpreted" Hillary, who may have been only "stating feelings about his childhood, but not excusing his behavior" ("behavior" in this case clearly meaning philandering). Franks responded: "I don't think so ... it's very clear that Hillary sees her husband's childhood as influencing his behavior. " But by Wednesday, when the "abuse excuse" had become an embarrassment to Hillary -- and when Talk had milked it for all the publicity it could get -- Franks was spouting the White House line that "Hillary ... never made that connection." And Franks was "mighty sick of talking about" it too!

        Isn't it unfair to say that an independent, Pulitzer-prize-sharing journalist like Franks is spouting a White House line? It usually is, but not in this case. Franks' article is so uncritical of the First Lady as to leave really only four possibilities: either Franks is a complete, unblinking Hillary Moonie, or she is in the tank, or she is a terrible journalist, or she is astonishingly na´ve. "Without [Hillary] we would have no economic boom" in Northern Ireland, gushes British official Mo Mowlam, and Franks reports it approvingly. Is she that dumb, or does she just think her readers are?

        True, in one sense Franks has a point: Hillary doesn't explicitly blame Bill's cheating on his childhood. Hillary explicitly blames Bill's cheating on "the deaths of his mother, her father," and Vince Foster. She also blames it on "the shutdown of government." In the past, as Seelye slyly notes, she has also blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy" and anti-Arkansas discrimination. Incredible that some people could have gotten the impression that, in Franks and Hillary's general, Gail Sheehy-esque, excuse-making session, Hillary's description of Bill's scarred childhood (in which there was "always the desire to please each" woman) was just another excuse.

        P.S.: Not all the articles in Talk are this bad.

        P.P.S.: If Hillary really thinks that between Gennifer Flowers and Monica there were "years and years of nothing," well ...

        Paranoid's Bonus: A sentence in Franks' piece we wonder if Ken Starr noticed: "There are boxes tucked away in the [Clintons'] private quarters that have never been unpacked."

        Mickey's Assignment Desk -- Memo to Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter: Let Hillary know what it's like to really be profiled; put Marjorie Williams on her case. Few have escaped Williams unscathed, and she always comes up with something new. Additional justification: Beat Tina!

        Note: this posting is updated here.

        Bill Bradley: Wrong on Welfare ... and Wrong for America!

Copyright 1999 Mickey Kaus.

Joe Klein: Falling in Love Again!

posted 07.07.99