Today's Papers

Criminal Types!

USA Today

, the Washington Post, and the New York Times each lead with a federal judge’s rejection of Monica Lewinsky’s claim that she had an immunity deal with Ken Starr. The Los Angeles Times leads with the results of the first U.S. study of the French abortion pill RU-486: highly effective and safe for terminating early pregnancies, a story that doesn’t make the other front pages (the NYT national edition carries it on p. 20).

Lewinsky’s lawyers had been arguing that a letter from Starr granted her immunity. The judge’s dismissal of that contention, writes USAT, may set the stage for Starr to force Lewinsky to “appear” before a federal grand jury. This is a little confusing since actually, Starr would have had more leverage to force Lewinsky to testify (rather than just show up) if she had immunity from prosecution. (The WP and NYT get this point right.) But in any case, one of Lewinsky’s lawyers, William Ginsburg, is quoted by USAT as saying his client “will never testify before a grand jury without immunity.” And the Post reports that her other lawyer, Nathaniel Speights, “ridiculed” the idea that Starr would indict his client. “No one,” he is quoted as saying, “is going to stand for somebody being indicted for having a sexual relationship with the president.” (Today’s reports in the NYT and WP to the effect that Hillary Clinton used the marital confidentiality privilege to avoid answering some Starr questions means that she may be somebody who is not being indicted because she’s having a sexual relationship with the president.)

The judge’s ruling is still under seal. USAT credits the story to an unnamed “person with knowledge of the decision.” The Post cites “individuals familiar with the case.” The LAT refers to “sources close to either side of the investigation.” Wonder why the NYT semi-outed its own sources, saying they are “lawyers,” which leaves them quite vulnerable to punishment by the judge, who warned the lawyers in the case against disclosing her sealed rulings.

The LAT front and the insides of the Wall Street Journal and the WP report that a consortium of Blue Cross health plans in 38 states (why does the WSJ in its story use the odd locution “more than 35 states”?) filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry, seeking billions in damages to compensate for the expense of treating smoking-related illnesses. The lawsuits, modeled on those successfully brought by several state governments in recent years, constitute, in the words of the LAT, a “major new assault” in what is already history’s costliest collection of cases. A similar ratcheting up is afoot in the Microsoft wars, with, the NYT front reports, thirteen states planning a joint antitrust action, separate from the pending federal case against the company, to block the release of Windows 98.

The NYT has a front-page exclusive detailing a first in the annals of crime: a cyber murder confession. On March 22, a man screen-named “Larry” made a posting to an on-line alcoholics support group in which he described how three years ago he murdered his five-year-old daughter. The on-line chat that followed included postings comforting the man by telling him that the crime was long past, but three of the people participating went to authorities, and a few days later, in a phone call to police in North Dakota, where the crime occurred, Larry Froistad confessed again.

As William Safire did earlier in the week, the NYT lead editorial has harsh words for the Justice Department’s investigation into the 1996 Clinton re-election effort’s possible illegal use of campaign funds. The editorial, titled “Janet Reno’s Latest Trick,” says the departure of the lead prosecutor after only seven months makes it “plain that his appointment was a public-relations masquerade.” Reno had to approve his transfer to a U.S. Attorney’s job in San Diego and so has, says the paper, once again “snookered…citizens who wanted a full investigation of the most corrupt campaign fund-raising operation since Watergate.”

The WP’s T.R. Reid tells of the latest O.J. outrages. It seems that when a BBC reporter knocked on his door recently, he came out pretending to stab her several times with a banana. In the subsequent interview with her, Simpson said that gorgeous women are constantly throwing themselves at him. When Simpson spotted an L.A. District Attorney on the street while riding around in a BBC van, he responded the same way any other innocent citizen would: he leaned out of the window and shouted “an anatomical obscenity” at her. (By the way, why the code phrase? If the Post can–unlike the NYT–let its readers know when a congressman thinks the president is a “scumbag,” then surely it can come dirty on this little bit of verbiage.)