Today's Papers

Depo Charge

USA Today

, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday’s unanimous Supreme Court decision that the law barring sexual discrimination in the workplace applies equally to harassment between workers of the same sex. The Washington Post, which runs the Supreme Court story near the top, goes instead with the most detailed account yet of President Clinton’s deposition in the Paula Jones case. “Today’s Papers” couldn’t help but notice that President Clinton didn’t comment on the important step the Supreme Court took to keep the workplace safe from sexual harassment.

It’s just common sense that same sex doesn’t automatically mean no harassment, but the reporting on the decision makes it clear that the legalities have been murky. According to the NYT, the law of sexual harassment is basically a recent Supreme Court creation, and broadening its application has met with hostility in lower courts. The NYT reports that Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the Court–issued in the case of a male oil-rig worker complaining about his treatment by male co-workers–says the acid test for harassment is not the sex or motivation of the parties, but whether there is sex-based discrimination in the workplace “so objectively offensive as to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment.”

Scalia, notes the Times, went on to claim that the decision does not abrogate all “genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex,” and all the papers give his example: a football coach slapping a player’s rear on the way to the field would be lawful, while the same gesture directed at the coach’s (female or male) secretary might not be. All the dailies note that the decision drew praise from civil rights and gay rights advocates.

It’s interesting to compare the harassment headlines. The NYT says, “High Court Widens Workplace Claims of Sex Harassment.” This is much less clear than USAT’s “Same-sex Harassment Illegal.” (The LAT has virtually this same to-the-point headline.)

The Post runs its Clinton lead clear across the top. And once again, photo editors in effect put an opinion on the front page. The accompanying picture of Clinton has to be the least attractive one of him ever published: Eyes hooded, JFK-style, talking out of one side of his mouth.

This story, about Clinton’s January 17th deposition, represents the most elaborate press account yet of his description of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton testified, says the paper, that the two exchanged gifts and that she visited him in his office perhaps five times, and that they may have been alone together. The president denied having sexual relations with Lewinsky, which for the purposes of the deposition was defined as fondling and oral sex, but not kissing on the mouth. Clinton said it was his secretary Betty Currie who initiated career help for Lewinsky.

In the deposition, Clinton denied that he propositioned Paula Jones and also denied having sex with three other women he was asked about. He did, however, say that he’d had sex with Gennifer Flowers–just once, in 1977.

The Post reports that often during the proceeding’s five hours, Clinton had to be asked to speak up. And, says the paper, at a couple of points, he reacted to something that was said in a “frustrated outburst.” It’s odd that the WP was able to find this out without finding out what prompted it.

The story gives a good picture of the personal degradation involved for Clinton in giving the deposition: there were seventeen people in attendance. Obviously, at least one of them was the source for this story. Place your money on Paula Jones and/or one of her six (!) lawyers.

USAT, the LAT, and the NYT all go front page with the news that choke-out thug Latrell Sprewell was given his gazillion dollar contract back by an arbitrator. Everybody has this quote from NBA commissioner David Stern: “You cannot strike your boss and still hold your job–unless you play in the NBA….”

The WP reports that, voting along racial lines, the Mississippi state Senate yesterday rejected a proposal to compensate relatives of those killed in the state in hate crimes during the civil rights era. Sen. Richard White is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we need to….start scratching these sores.”

Michael Kelly’s WP column about Ken Starr vs. Sidney Blumenthal has one of the more striking author disclaimers you’ll ever see: “….(full disclosure: I worked with Blumenthal at the New Yorker and didn’t like him.)”