Who's sorry now? Satire: Clinton basher's six-figure apology makes one wonder about a few other big stories.

March 12, 1998|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

Apologies from journalists for dubious reporting are pouring in since journalist David Brock's public apology to President Clinton.

As a nation held its breath, "right-wing hit man" Brock apologized to the president in an open letter in a national magazine. Brock said he was sorry for breaking the 1993 story about then-Gov. Bill Clinton and a woman named Paula, who turned out to be Paula Jones.

"I wasn't hot for this story in the interest of good government or serious journalism. I wanted to pop you right between the eyes," Brock wrote Clinton in the April edition of Esquire.

The New York press reported that Brock was so remorseful that he has signed a six-figure deal to write a book about his old Clinton-bashing ways.

There was no comment from Brock. A spokeswoman for his publisher says the repentant journalist "is making himself available only to national TV media."

Unable to compete with those credentials, The Sun decided to contact journalists and news organizations that broke some of the biggest stories in the second half of this century. Incredibly, they were very sorry, too.

For example, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward have apologized. In 1973, these reporters and their paper, the Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation of the Watergate break-in and the ensuing stories leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Yesterday, a chastened Bernstein and Woodward co-wrote an open letter to the American public.

"We weren't hot for that story in the interest of good government or serious journalism," they wrote. "We just thought it would be cool to name a source 'Deep Throat.' "

No comment was available from the American public -- although it did give an interview to CNN.

Seymour Hersh also announced a stunning public correction. In 1970, Hersh received the Pultizer Prize for breaking the story of the My Lai massacre. Hersh reported that, in March 1968, more than 350 unarmed civilians were shot to death by a U.S. Army unit in My Lai, a South Vietnamese hamlet.

In an open letter to My Lai convictee Lt. William Calley Jr., Hersh apologized by saying: "I wasn't hot for that story in the interest of good government or serious journalism. I just wanted to win a Pulitzer."

The Sun also learned yesterday that Edward R. Murrow -- the late pioneer newsman -- made the following stipulation in his will: "I, Edward R. Murrow, being of sound mind and body, do hereby offer this retraction (for release in 1998)." He went on to apologize for his 1954 broadcasts in which he accused Commie-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy of engaging in half-truths.

"I wasn't hot for that story in the interest of good government or serious journalism," Murrow wrote in an open letter to the late Wisconsin senator. "It just happened to be 'sweeps week.' "

A check of McCarthy's will uncovered a stipulation that he would not be available for any interviews.

Pravda, the Soviet party newspaper, has also decided to make amends for its timely, melodramatic coverage of the 1986 nuclear "disaster" at Chernobyl. After a month of contemplation, Pravda reported that a "boom boom" did occur at the nuclear plant and that radioactivity "trickled" out.

Pravda said it now apologizes for implying the "boom boom" posed a threat to public health. In re-checking its original sources, Pravda learned they were no longer available for comment, having died from mysterious causes.

Also Tuesday, the Miami Herald apologized for implying in 1987 that model Donna Rice and Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart were doing "the wild thing." The Herald, while staking out Hart, observed Rice entering his Washington townhouse. In a closed letter to Hart, the newspaper said: "Dear Gary: In hindsight, it wasn't that big a deal."

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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