ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Leopold Lies, Gets Story Wrong

Yes, we all know that TruthOut's Jason Leopold was ahead of the "fake but accurate" news cycle. And although they said they were going to "stand down" on the story on Friday, they've now decided to jump back in with both feet and "stand up" on it again.

In addition to that the fact that the entire TruthOut organization is now going to go down with the ship, it's interesting that Jason Leopold apparently lied and used unethical behavior by impersonating another journalist.

My Unwitting Role in the Rove 'Scoop'

By Joe Lauria
Sunday, June 18, 2006; B02

The May 13 story on the Web site Truthout.org was explosive: Presidential adviser Karl Rove had been indicted by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in connection with his role in leaking CIA officer Valerie Plame's name to the media, it blared. The report set off hysteria on the Internet, and the mainstream media scrambled to nail it down. Only . . . it wasn't true.

As we learned last week, Rove isn't being indicted, and the supposed Truthout scoop by reporter Jason Leopold was wildly off the mark. It was but the latest installment in the tale of a troubled young reporter with a history of drug addiction whose aggressive disregard for the rules ended up embroiling me in a bizarre escapade -- and raised serious questions about journalistic ethics.

Leopold says he gets the same rush from breaking a news story that he did from snorting cocaine. To get coke, he lied, cheated and stole. To get his scoops, he has done much the same. As long as it isn't illegal, he told me, he'll do whatever it takes to get a story, especially to nail a corrupt politician or businessman. "A scoop is a scoop," he trumpets in his memoir. "Other journalists all whine about ethics, but that's a load of crap."

I disagree, but I felt some sympathy for the affable, seemingly vulnerable 36-year-old. Before we parted, I told him a bit about myself -- that I freelance for numerous newspapers, including the Sunday Times of London. His publicist had earlier given him my cellphone number.

Three days later, Leopold's Rove story appeared. I wrote him a congratulatory e-mail, wondering how long it would be before the establishment media caught up.

But by Monday there was no announcement. No one else published the story. The blogosphere went wild. Leopold said on the radio that he would out his unnamed sources if it turned out that they were wrong or had misled him. I trawled the Internet looking for a clue to the truth. I found a blog called Talk Left, run by Jeralyn Merritt, a Colorado defense lawyer.

Merritt had called Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman who is now privately employed by Rove. She reported that Corallo said he had "never spoken with someone identifying himself as 'Jason Leopold.' He did have conversations Saturday and Sunday . . . but the caller identified himself as Joel something or other from the Londay [sic] Sunday Times. . . . At one point . . . he offered to call Joel back, and was given a cell phone number that began with 917. When he called the number back, it turned out not to be a number for Joel."

A chill went down my back. I freelance for the Sunday Times. My first name is often mistaken for Joel. My cellphone number starts with area code 917.

I called Corallo. He confirmed that my name was the one the caller had used. Moreover, the return number the caller had given him was off from mine by one digit. Corallo had never been able to reach me to find out it wasn't I who had called. He said he knew who Leopold was but had never talked to him.
It will be interesting to see how TruthOut defends such practices. And it's also interesting that Leopold's fix has been transferred from cocaine to partisan attack "scoops" that have little basis in reality.

continuing...
I called Leopold. He gave me a profanity-filled earful, saying that he'd spoken to Corallo four times and that Corallo had called him to denounce the story after it appeared.

When he was done, I asked: "How would Corallo have gotten my phone number, one digit off?"

"Joe, I would never, ever have done something like that," Leopold said defiantly.

Except that he has done things like that. His memoir is full of examples. He did break big stories, but he lied to get many of them. He admits lying to the lawyers for Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Andrew Fastow, making up stories to get them to spill more beans. "I was hoping to get both sides so paranoid that one was going to implicate the other," he wrote.

I don't really know why Leopold may have pretended to be me to Corallo. I can only speculate that he either was trying to get a reaction and thought Corallo would be more likely to respond to a conservative-leaning mainstream paper, or he was trying to get Corallo to acknowledge that Rove had been indicted by bluffing that the Sunday Times had confirmed the story. In fact, Corallo told me that "Joel" told him that he had Fitzgerald's spokesman on the record about the indictment. He has also said he believes Leopold made up the whole story.
[...]
In the end, whatever Jason Leopold's future, he got what he appears to be crying out for: attention.
It seems that Leopold was trying to get an "I heard that, too" out of Corallo... and, when he didn't, decided to run with it anyway. He certainly got some attention, but I'm not sure it's the kind that will benefit him in the long run.

I don't know about you, but this is all eerily similar to the Bill Burkett / Mary Mapes / Lucy Ramirez bullshit of RatherGate which hit in 2004... only this time, Leopold is playing the role of all three - conspirazoid kook, "journalist", and mythical informant.

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Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler