By MARC McDONALD
In 1993, the mainstream media peddled the myth that Los Angeles International Airport shut its runways for nearly an hour and inconvenienced many ordinary passengers whose flights were delayed so President Bill Clinton could get a haircut. The "story" was Page One news in "The New York Times," "The Los Angeles Times," "The Washington Post," "The Boston Globe," and elsewhere.
There was only one problem: the story was complete bullshit.
But that's OK. The media does sometimes screw up. Nobody's perfect.
There's only one problem, though. Here we are, nearly a quarter of a century later and the media is still peddling the "haircut" myth.
Are we talking about Fox "News"? Uh, no, actually, we're talking about "The New York Times," a newspaper that is allegedly "Liberal."
On Wednesday, the "Times" once again regurgitated the long-debunked myth about Clinton's haircut, in an article about French President Francois Hollande getting expensive haircuts on the taxpayers' dime.
As the "Times" put it: "In 1993, two of Los Angeles International Airport’s runways were shut for nearly an hour so that President Bill Clinton’s Beverly Hills hairstylist could come aboard Air Force One to give him a haircut." (Note: by the time you read this, it's possible that the "Times" will have run a correction---but as of 10 p.m. Central Time, July 13, the "Times" is still peddling the haircut myth).
When I read this story yesterday, I vaguely recalled reading somewhere that this story had been long ago debunked. Then I remembered: I'd encountered this fact years ago, not in a "New York Times" correction, but in a 2005 Al Franken interview on Air America.
Rather than run a correction in 1993, "The New York Times" has continued to peddle the Clinton haircut myth over and over for more than 20 years. As media watchdog site, Media Matters put it in 2007, the story was long ago exposed as a crock:
According to Federal Aviation Administration records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the May 18 haircut caused no significant delays of regularly scheduled passenger flights - no circling planes, no traffic jams on the runways.
Media Matters has debunked "The New York Times" claim over and over----and yet, the "Times" has repeatedly regurgitated the haircut "story."
It's a myth that just won't die, much like the "Vince Foster was murdered" story and Al Gore supposedly claiming to have "invented" the Internet.
Comedian Bill Maher has a segment on his show that refers to right-wing "Zombie Lies" that are regurgitated over and over and never die.
You know what else never dies? Right-wing (and corporate media) lies about Democrats.
Over the years, I'd bet there's probably been more coverage of "stories" like the Clinton haircut and the Vince Foster "murder" and Obama's birth certificate than there has been of real scandals like Valerie Plame (remember her? The vast majority of Americans don't). That was a real scandal. But the same media that snoozed through the Plame case never misses a chance to trot out the Clinton "haircut" myth.
You know, it's one thing if the OxyMoron Limbaugh peddles crap like this. It's quite another thing if the "Times" does it. After all, a lot of people take the "Times" seriously. (Actually, I don't---and I haven't since "Times" reporter Judith Miller wrote stories supporting the pack of lies that Bush used to peddle his Iraq invasion). Of course, that was a much more serious failing by the "Times." Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children died.
But still, I find it astonishing that, after 23 years, the "Times" has yet to stop printing lies about Bill Clinton's 1993 haircut. Who needs Limbaugh when you've got "The New York Times" peddling the same outrageous lies?