Editorial by John Ziegler

King and Queen of the "Soft Balls"


On Monday night Monica Lewinsky made her first live television appearance. She did so on CNN'S "Larry King Live." It is possible that what is left of journalism may survive the bringing together of the King and Queen of "soft balls," but together they showed just how much of it is already DOA.

During the course of their 37-minute Jenny Craig infomercial disguised as a relatively harmless "celebrity interview," Larry King revealed (once again) that he is not only the monarch of all media-whores, but that he is also remarkably uninformed. Despite having "covered" the Lewinsky scandal for over a year, King showed he was blissfully unaware of who broke the original story, when Monica famously said, "I hate Linda Tripp" (he wasn't even sure that she had said it at all), or that Monica had (rather importantly) told many OTHER friends about her play sessions with the "first member."

Speaking of her "affair" with the President, if an alien life form (other than Michael Jackson) had viewed this interview they would have had NO IDEA why Monica Lewinsky was a person of note in the first place! King treated her role in the impeachment of the President as if it were some unspeakable, dark family secret that is rarely referred to, barely acknowledged, and only mentioned in passing via veiled language.

Of course, as far as Monica was concerned, the role she played in history (and why she MIGHT be interesting to listen to) was almost completely unrelated to why she was on "Larry King Live." She was there to promote the "Jenny Craig" weight-loss system, which is apparently allowing her to pay her legal bills and to become somewhat dateable again. We are all now far too used to "celebrities" being able to pitch something in exchange for their time, but this "interview" set a new (low) standard in the now routine (especially on King's show) trading of the program's credibility for the access to a famous face. Not only were several of the questions from King directly about the Jenny Craig system, but two of the callers (chosen by the shows producers) also dealt with Lewinsky's attempts to shed some of the amble lard she had accumulated since becoming famous. You would think that if the prospect of being photographed everywhere you went weren't enough to keep you out of the fat farm nothing would be, but according to the still rather girlish Lewinsky Jenny Craig is doing the trick (and yes, they did pay her, or at least her lawyers, to say that).

So what did the VIEWER get in exchange for its deal with the devil (King)? Not much. Apparently the balance of power has now shifted so far in the favor of hot celebrities that they can now gain access to the airwaves (at least those controlled by King) without having to be asked ANY difficult questions or even be forced to shed ANY light on their story.

It seems to me truly AMAZING and quite frightening that neither Barbara Walters nor Larry King (the two softball artists with whom Monica has given "lip service") have asked her anything REMOTELY close to the following question: Monica, in your testimony during the Impeachment Trial you INSISTED that there was never a "linkage" in your mind between the President asking you to file a deposition and that deposition having to be false. Why is it then that your FIRST reaction (in your own words) when you were interviewed by Starr's office was that you HAD to go to the President's deposition and hold up a sign that said "DON'T DO IT!"? Why were you so certain that he was going to lie about you if there was no "linkage" in your mind between him asking you to file a deposition and deposition being false? Instead we get: "Did they (Jenny Craig) call you or did you call them?"

As disgusting and comically tragic as this entire episode was, we ALL must bear some of the responsibility for it. The reason that Larry King can continue to bend over for big names is that we will watch big names even when they have nothing say or just won't say it. Until we stop watching the Monica Lewinsky's of the world doing "infomercials" ("fat" chance), this trend will only get worse. The real scourge of Larry King is that he makes it much more difficult for the other interviewers of the world to ask the "tough" (what passes for tough these days is laughable) questions because the "important people" now have some many other options (like King) where they know that they can safely plug their wares. And since we have become so celebrity obsessed, shows that can't get well-known guests risk losing their audience and their jobs. Consequently, like water and electricity, the rest of the interviewers follow the path of least resistance and melt like candle in the blast furnace that is going face-to-face with a popular public figure (it's okay to ask David Duke or Ken Starr anything you want, but not Pete Rose or Bill Clinton).

Typical of this parody of an interview, the King/ Lewinsky failed to provide the answer to even the most basic of questions: is her diet really working?. The least she could have done was stand up and take her jacket off, but from this encounter there was not even to be that meager revelation. Ironically it was Lewinsky herself who finally pulled the plug on her appearance telling a stunned King, "I really have to get going." Apparently even she had had enough of this garbage. Haven't we all?

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