White House Sees Conspiracy

The Clinton Administration is standing by a memo produced by the White House counsel's office alleging that a conspiracy of right-wing spinmeisters, starting on the Internet, concocts unfavorable stories about the President, which then worm their way into the mainstream media.

According to the memo, written by Christopher Lehane, a young White House aide, in 1995, the President's opponents take rumors that are posted about the President on the Internet and pass them along to far-right publications like The American Spectator. The stories are then picked up by more mainstream conservative papers, such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times. Finally, the memo argues, the stories work their way into the mainstream media, including CNN, ABC, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. The memo was attached to 330 pages of newspaper clippings supporting its conclusions.

At a press conference yesterday, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said he agreed with the memo's findings. "I think it is accurate to say that there are a lot of groups that fund-- groups that are positioned on the far right of the political spectrum-- that fund people who peddle conspiracy theories," he said. "So in a sense, you get misled and misused by people who really start off with the goal of actually planting information to do political damage to the President."

McCurry used the story of the memo itself as an example of how the "media food chain" works. He said that when the report came out in 1995, it was ignored by most of the media, though copies were given to reporters. Only when The Wall Street Journal mentioned the report earlier this week did it achieve wide circulation in the media.

"The Wall Street Journal editorial page carries a column that mentions this deep, dark secret 330-page report that then gets picked up by The Washington Times and written, and then gets asked here in the press briefing room," McCurry said. "So, in other words, in this Fellini-like manner, what we are doing right now is proof positive of the kind of cycle that we're talking about."

McCurry said the report was commissioned to address recurring questions reporters had about rumors they heard. The White House wanted to explain how the rumor mill worked so that reporters could "understand the genesis of some of these stories," McCurry said.

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