Image restoration : an examination of denial strategy in media coverage during the first three months of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal

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Liu, Yu-Chun
Popovich, Mark N.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Journalism
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This thesis analyzes President William Jefferson Clinton's self-defense during the first four months of 1998. The study focuses on Clinton's denial of the sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky when the story broke out in the Washington Post on January 21, 1998. William L. Benoit's theory of Image Restoration is used to examine each strategy's distribution. Benoit's framework consists of identifying strategies used by denial to clarify and repair a positive image despite negative public accusations.The study employed a content analysis as the research methodology. There were a total of 1,392 sentences contained in twenty-four articles from the Washington Post, only articlesfrom the Post were included in the initial search. Research was conducted using microfilm of the Washington Post full-text articles during the time period of interest: January 21, 1998 to April 20, 1998. The dependent variables were the number of sentences devoted to the amount of the Washington Post coverage given to the strategies utilized by Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Clinton's staff, Clinton' s lawyer, Clinton's friends, the media, Al Gore, and the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the sentences were coded on the basis of image restoration theory and strategy categories defined by Benoit.The data showed the strategy of denial was employed at the highest rate among all strategies during the three selected time periods. Specifically, the denial strategy was used the most frequently with 348 quotations (25%). In the short run, Clinton's popularity among followers was not damaged, but in the long run, he faced impeachment proceedings. Therefore, the strategy of denial is not always a clarification action. This study indicates that the strategy of denial merely complicates and prolongs the whole process; therefore twisting Benoit's original definition.