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Clinton, Conspiracism, and the Continuing Culture War

Diversity in Coverage and Framing

The content, tone, and amount of anti-Clinton coverage varied considerably across both the secular and Christian right. Within the hard right, coverage was far more consistently conspiracist and apocalyptic in tone. But not everyone jumped on the impeachment bandwagon. For instance, Phyllis Schlafly, the grande dame of ultra-conservative conspiracism, wrote only the occasional column blasting Clinton's morality as symptomatic of decadent liberalism.29 Although D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries is embedded in the conspiracist subculture, only one out of 30 of his direct mail letters reviewed was directly about Clinton-a call for resignation penned by Kennedy in November of 1998.30

The glossy conservative evangelical magazine World featured consistent coverage of Clinton's travails, but while highly critical of Clinton and liberal politics, its coverage was generally thoughtful, and based on solid reporting and interviews. World often displayed more professionalism than the Wall Street Journal, and contained less salacious pandering and self-referential conceit than Newsweek. However, World awarded Kenneth Starr a "Daniel of the Year" cover story on Dec. 8, 1998. The reference is to the Biblical story of devout Daniel in the lion's den.

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29 Review of archives of Schalfly's columns online at http://www.eagleforum.org/column/. Schlafly spent more space on her perennial issues such as fighting a big federal government, dismantling the Department of Education, opposing the UN, stopping globalism, and calling the nuclear device dropped on two Japanese cities near the end of WWII the "Lifesaver Bomb." For bomb reference, see column of 8/10/95.

30 Kennedy direct mail on file at People for the American Way. The most frequent topics in the months prior to that were prayer in school, the ACLU (leading the "anti-virtue" battle), and gays and lesbians; followed by fewer mentions of abortion and activist judges.