Kurtz falsely implied Reagan left office a more “popular figure” than Clinton

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz falsely suggested that former President Ronald Reagan, unlike former President Bill Clinton, “left office a popular figure” -- overlooking Clinton's higher final approval rating; higher average approval rating; higher second-term average rating; and higher average rating than Reagan's for their final two years in office.

Kurtz wrote in his June 21 "Media Notes" column:

Reagan, despite the Iran-contra scandal, left office a popular figure; Clinton's departure came two years after he was impeached and was clouded by his wave of last-minute pardons.

Reagan's final Gallup job approval rating before leaving office was 63 percent. Clinton's was 65 percent -- the “highest for a departing president in the half-century of modern polling.” [USA Today, 1/17/01]

Over the course of his entire presidency, Reagan had an average Gallup approval rating of 53 percent -- not bad. But not as good as that of Clinton, whose average approval rating was 55 percent.

Further, Gallup recently noted, “Clinton's overall second-term average was substantially higher than his first term, at 61%. (Reagan's second-term average was 55%.)”

This chart of Gallup approval ratings for the last five presidents shows that Clinton was consistently much more popular during his last two years in office than Reagan was during his last two years as president.

Kurtz also quoted “Fox commentator Oliver North,” who “scoffed at 'the idea of infidelity being something you just dismiss, and that his lying before a grand jury isn't worthy of impeachment or a resignation.'”

Kurtz didn't mention the irony of Oliver North (who was convicted of lying to Congress) criticizing Bill Clinton (who was never convicted of anything) for “lying before a grand jury.” (North's conviction was later overturned.)

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