The White House smells a conspiracy

Is the Paula Jones case an isolated assault on the President's good name? Not a bit of it, says the White House.

Her sexual harassment charges and the publicity accorded them are fruit of a deliberate conspiracy, stretching from the American right to the British tabloids, cooked up to defame Bill Clinton and if possible hound him from office.

With a paranoia reminiscent of the least glorious moments of the Nixon administration, the White House last week made public a 331-page report entitled "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce".

This contains hundreds of press articles, but prize exhibit is an alleged media chain, purporting to show how allegations of White House skulduggery and scandal find their way from obscure thinktanks to the mainstream media.

The Jones affair, which arose from the 1993 "Troopergate" revelations from members of then-Governor Clinton's security detail about his sexual adventuring in Arkansas, is but one example. Others include some of the more lurid Whitewater subplots, and the reports that former White House counsel Vince Foster did not kill himself in July 1993 but was murdered.

The conspiracy begins with "well-funded right-wing think-tanks and individuals". These feed their fantasies through British tabloids and conservative United States papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The study has earned the White House nothing but derision - not least because the US media is far too disorganised to conduct a conspiracy. It also makes a few errors of fact. "Troopergate" was in part uncovered by the super-respectable Los Angeles Times. Far more credit is moreover due to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the indefatigable if eccentric Washington correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph (surely no tabloid?), whose burrowing into the darkest recesses of Clintonian Arkansas make him a pioneer in the field.

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