Can the mainstream media resist being dragged through the mud?
This column appeared Jan. 7, 1999, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site. Drudge has taken his articles down, but you can still read them here. To track how the Clinton paternity story infiltrated the media, see A cybersleaze timeline: Anatomy of a smear.
By J.D. Lasica
Matt Drudge and Larry Flynt — who would have thought them soulmates?
Drudge, the enfant terrible of online journalism, has been ratcheting up the hysteria volume this week over his latest “world exclusive”: that Bill Clinton may have a 13-year-old son, the result of a tryst with an African American prostitute who’s seeking to prove paternity through DNA testing.
Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, is planning to reveal the marital infidelities of one Republican U.S. senator and as many as a dozen GOP congressmen in the coming days, having offered a $1 million bounty to women who came forward with evidence of congressional sexual philandering.
Drudge and Flynt have more in common than an appetite for sleaze. Both are ideologues: Drudge is an admitted Clinton hater, Flynt is a Democrat who’s seeking to purge the moral high priests from their pedestals.
Both purloined other publications’ stories and claimed them as their own: Drudge hijacked the “Clinton’s secret son” story from the supermarket tabloids; Flynt borrowed the idea of “outing GOP hypocrites” from others, most notably Salon (his remark “Desperate times deserve desperate actions” echoed Salon’s clarion call, “ugly times call for ugly tactics”).