Dressing Down ABC

On Monday, ABC's Cheng said: "I'm not going to go into the details of our news-gathering process. We stand by that [initial] report."

The ABC report was irresponsible enough on its own. Relying primarily on the ABC broadcast, however, more than a dozen other major news organizations went with some version of the semen-stained dress. (At least some of those outlets, including the AP, tempered reports by including denials from Lewinsky's lawyer about the existence of any forensic evidence.) Internet bottom-feeder Matt Drudge also used the ABC report to bolster the credibility of his own version of the semen-dress tale.

Most memorable, both the New York Post (MONICA'S LOVE DRESS) and the Daily News (SHE KEPT SEX DRESS) put the alleged dress on their January 24 front pages. The News was cautious: the first sentence of its account used the words reportedly and alleged, and attributed the semen story to "a broadcast report."

The Post bulldozed any such niceties. As in a game of telephone, the story went from Lewinsky saying she saved the dress to Lewinsky simply saving it. The Post story's first sentence was: "Monica Lewinsky saved a dress as a souvenir because it had President Clinton's semen on it, sources said last night."

The reporter whose byline ran on the Post account was Brian Blomquist. At least Blomquist is honest about what he didn't know. "We certainly never saw a dress," Blomquist said Monday, "or knew for certain there was a dress." Blomquist said his report should have had a line in it about Lewinsky claiming to have a dress. "I don't know why it ran like it did," Blomquist said. "Maybe [Post editors] punched it up, which does happen."

Esquire's Direct Male

The Esquire direct-mail campaign mentioned here two weeks ago--the one that promises the would-be reader he'd know what to do when "your testicles hum like a tomcat's"--is angering more than just its recipients. Esquire contributing editor Gregory Jaynes, for one, is especially miffed: he's the one who wrote that line.

The first sentence of Jaynes's 1997 book, Come Hell on High Water: A Really Sullen Memoir, reads: "Sitting here in my cabin, I feel electrical and buzzy; my testicles hum like a tomcat's." An excerpt of the book ran in Esquire in December 1996.

In the direct-mail letter, however, Jaynes was not credited. Moreover, since only that phrase runs in the solicitation, the meaning is incomprehensible; Jaynes spent months on board a ship, sleeping in a cabin next to a diesel engine, and thus his entire body was under "a tingling assault of near-eternal duration."

Asked how he felt about Esquire's unauthorized lifting of his phrase, Jaynes said: "It's like shoplifting. It's just wrong... I don't want someone to pick up my book, see the first line, and realize he's read it in some low-life come-on."

Jaynes recently complained directly to Esquire editor David Granger. Although the magazine refused to comment, Granger is said to have apologized to Jaynes, and offered to reassess the propriety of the mailing. (Thanks to the folks on the Echo BBS's media conference for bringing the Esquire letter to my attention.)

Clipboard

Exhibit A in the theory that George Pataki will get the endorsement of the Times, News, and Post: not one of those dailies has yet seen fit to publish an editorial calling on the governor to give a full explanation of his involvement with Yung Soo Yoo. Yoo is the GOP fundraiser currently under federal investigation for laundering contributions to Pataki's '94 campaign. Two major questions come to mind: Why did Pataki wait so long to return the money, when Yoo's criminal past was well known? What compelled Pataki to put Yoo on his transition team, and what were Yoo's duties?... PI have not had the chance to read the recently released CIA Inspector General's report investigating charges that the agency was tied to California coke dealers (inspired by the "Dark Alliance" series written by former San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb). But an analysis by the D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies says that, despite the report's well-publicized reference to "no direct or indirect" ties, the full report actually confirms several of Webb's most important findings.

Research: Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

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