Correction: Chatterbox Goofed

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Dec. 14 1998 6:32 PM

Correction: Chatterbox Goofed

Chatterbox deserves his own censure resolution. Forgetting the journalistic caution flag about unequivocal adverbs like "never" and "always," Chatterbox must confess that he misled the American people by mistakenly claiming that Bill Clinton has never held a single traditional news conference this year. (See "Clinton's Rules of the Rude" below). He deeply regrets the pain that this misstatement has caused Slate readers and the Chatterbox family.

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Clinton did, it turns out, hold an East Room press conference last April 30. For the record, and Chatterbox is certain this time, that was the only traditional Q-and-A session that Clinton has held with the press in the last year. Even Charles De Gaulle was more accessible to reporters than that. Clinton defenders would have us believe that the only reason the president avoids press conferences is that White House press corps is so fixated on scandal that they have no interest in the real issues facing the American people. But on this lone 1998 occasion when reporters were allowed to quiz the president in a leisurely fashion, 60 percent of the questions were about substantive matters like the stock market, tobacco legislation, and NATO.

None of this can excuse Chatterbox's error in making such a reprehensible, but not perjurious, error. As that wise poet put it so well, "The moving figure writes without fully checking, and having writ says, 'It's only journalism.' " Still, nothing--not piety, nor tears, nor wit, nor torment--can alter what Chatterbox has done. So sorry.

--Walter Shapiro

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