These days there are at least two classes of Americans who remain
unprotected by rules of political correctness: conservative Republican
women like Laura Ingraham (a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas); and white “good ol’ boys” like House impeachment
manager Lindsey Graham.
In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Dominick Dunne, a Clinton
courtier-journalist, wrote “two-fer” slurs against both Ingraham and
“I couldn’t stand Lindsey Graham’s folksy, down-home,
I’m-just-a-southern-boy speechifying. He said ‘ain’t’ a bit. I’d seen
his mean streak show on his face … his voice dripping in disgust. …
Even a public hand holding with Laura Ingraham, the right-wing blonde
pundit of MSNBC, didn’t change his image.”
Based on a personal experience, I fear that Laura Ingraham is very
much in the minority at MSNBC — many of whose employees are Clinton
courtiers like Dominick Dunne.
On December 21, 1998 at my home in Connecticut I received a phone
call from the Washington producer of MSNBC’s show “WATCH IT,” inviting
me to be interviewed by Laura Ingraham the next morning at 11. Being 74
– and hardly telegenic — I hesitated for a moment, and then agreed.
That evening, I drafted a statement to be used on the show. On
reading it over, I had reservations about whether it might be too
strident. It began:
- In World War II, at the age of 17 — with some 30 members of my
family in Nazi concentration camps — I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. At
that time, my commander in chief Franklin Roosevelt frequently described
himself as “slightly left of center.” From then until my last day, I
intend to remain a classical liberal Roosevelt Democrat.
I now take strong issue with the so-called “New Democrat” movement
founded by President Clinton and my own Senator Joseph Lieberman — and
now supported by minority leaders Richard Gephardt and Tom Daschle.
While professing “centrist” politics and pleading for “civility” from
one and all, they do nothing to reject and to repudiate the attacks by
(what I call the “New Lunatic Left”) on my friends Henry Hyde and Bob
Barr, with whose conservative center-right politics I often strongly
disagree — but whose articles of impeachment of William Jefferson
Clinton I fully support.
During the recent impeachment debate, virtually all of the fierce
partisanship and hate language came from my fellow Democrats.
In the morning a limousine sent by NBC Hartford arrived at my
home at 8:30 a.m. I got to the studio at 9:30 (1 1/2 hours early) in a
cold, driving rain. I asked the receptionist if I could be given some
coffee, a quiet corner, and the use of phone. I waited twenty minutes
until “John Doe,” a young man in blue jeans appeared. At my mention of
“Laura Ingraham” he reacted as though she were “typhoid Mary.” He was
not one of her fans. Holding me at bay, he told me to come back at
I protested that I had nowhere to go but out in the rain — and wanted
prompt access to a telephone, to call Laura Ingraham’s producer. John
Doe replied: “Well, I will look into that.”
After another 15 minutes John Doe had not returned. Suddenly, a fire
alarm sounded. I along with all of the MSNBC employees evacuated the
building and huddled in the rain. I was approached by John Doe, who
asked, “What are you here to talk about?” I answered, “The impeachment
of President Clinton.” John Doe replied, “What do you have to say about
I told him I had prepared a statement, was concerned that it might be
too strident, and wanted to try it out as soon as possible on the
Washington producer. At his request, I recited it.
When John Doe laughed, I became intemperate. I accused him of having
a “s— eating grin.” He turned his back, walked away, joining a nearby
group of his colleagues. Pointing his finger at me, he continued his
laughter, and said something that caused his colleagues also to laugh.
When the all-clear sounded at about 10:15, I returned to the
receptionist and complained. I said I would not appear on the show
unless someone other than John Doe took prompt steps to provide me with
access to a phone and otherwise make me comfortable. She dialed John
Doe’s supervisor, who came within two minutes. After hearing my story he
“I don’t want you to worry about [John Doe] right now. I will take
care of him. Although I have many other things that I could be doing
right now I will stay with you for every minute until the broadcast is
completed and do everything I can to make you comfortable.”
On the conclusion of the show the supervisor again promised to “take
care” of John Doe. I replied that John Doe reminded me of some lines
from a T.S. Eliot poem that is still popular among my generation: “Youth
is cruel, has no remorse, and smiles at situations which it cannot see.
I smile of course, and go on drinking tea.”
As I left I asked the supervisor to: “Tell [John Doe] that I forgive
him, and apologize for my intemperate outburst.” I urged that John Doe
not be fired, but instead simply be required to provide me with his own
To date I have received no apology from John Doe. In preparation for
this article I have attempted to reach his supervisor by phone. I have
been advised that the supervisor is no longer there and that NBC cannot
give me his new number.
I now have a theory about the media’s John Does and Dominick Dunnes.
They are jealous of Lindsey Graham — and are too politically correct to
hold hands with Laura Ingraham.
Jerome Zeifman formerly served as the House Judiciary Committee’s
chief counsel and as a law professor at the University of Santa Clara.
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