As if the liberal establishment media isn't already embarrassed enough by the bizarrely thin New York Times hatchet job against John McCain, now 60 Minutes comes along to run with an even less documented, and frankly far less believable hatchet job against Karl Rove -- without even asking Rove to respond! The whole story is not just sleazy journalism, it's whatever ranks below "sleazy" on the absolute scale of perfidy.
On Thursday, the 60 Minutes web site began hawking a feature to run on its show. This Sunday, an already discredited Alabama attorney named Dana Jill Simpson will claim that Rove asked her to photograph Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in a "compromising, sexual position with one of his aides."
Nothing about her story even begins to stand up to scrutiny; indeed all of it fails every basic test of common sense. A former Democratic Alabama Supreme Court justice (and sometime Siegelman adversary) who represented a co-defendant and close ally of Siegelman's in the trial that convicted Siegelman of federal bribery and obstruction charges, said that the previous versions of the woman's oft-changing allegations "must have been created by a drunk fiction writer."
Worse, the TV newsmagazine is airing this explosive charge without letting Rove rebut it. Friday afternoon, Rove's attorney Robert Luskin issued this statement: "Several months ago, in October 2007, two producers for 60 Minutes conducted an off the record, telephone interview with Karl Rove on a variety of subjects that included, among others, Jill Simpson's latest allegations. After 60 Minutes made the decision to publicize these charges, no one from 60 Minutes approached Mr. Rove or gave him an opportunity to respond on the record."
Spokesman Mark Corallo added that Rove personally told him he was "astonished that 60 Minutes was running this false and absurd story." According to Corallo, Rove does not remember ever meeting the woman making the allegation. It beggars belief that Rove, while in the White House, and with all of the sophisticated campaign tools available to him, would enlist some random Alabama lawyer to try to photograph Mr. Siegelman in flagrante.
The Associated Press report noted Thursday that Simpson "has never before said that Rove pressed her for evidence of marital infidelity -- in spite of testifying to congressional lawyers for hours last year, submitting a sworn affidavit and speaking extensively with reporters."
After Simpson's congressional testimony, Democrats in Washington suddenly seemed to stop pushing the "Siegelman was framed" story that until then had been gaining traction. One can presume that her testimony didn't even come close to holding up. Numerous Alabama reporters, including a recent Pulitzer Prize winner, have noted a bevy of other changes or additions to Simpson's story over the past year as she has spun one strange tale after another of a supposed Republican conspiracy to destroy Siegelman's career, a conspiracy that she says was responsible for his eventual prosecution on what left-wing activists now charge were trumped-up charges.
THE TRUTH IS that the entire Siegelman investigation stemmed from a series of articles in the Mobile Register (my former newspaper) by ace investigative reporter Eddie Curran, a winner of numerous journalism awards who is anything but a Republican.
On Friday, the Montgomery Independent published the first of a two-part column by Curran disputing virtually every facet of Simpson's tales, as well as the cheerleading for the story by Harper's blogger Scott Horton. "What's most amazing is that there remains a single sane person on earth who continues to take Simpson and her stories seriously," Curran writes.
For one thing, Simpson consistently has made claims of being a longtime, and fairly high-level, Republican activist in Alabama. My Republican sources in Alabama say they either don't even know her or barely remember her having done some rather low-level volunteer work.
Yesterday, longtime activist Toby Roth said of the 2002 campaign (around which most of her allegations revolve), "I was the campaign director [for now Gov. Bob Riley's challenge to Siegelman]. I did not know her. Never met the lady."
Roth's only contact with her came four years later when she faxed him letters demanding that one of her clients be awarded a state contract to clean up a tire dump. The contract went to somebody else, and Roth says her allegations began surfacing only after her client lost the business. "I feel like I'm in the middle of the Duke Lacrosse rape case or something like that," Roth said.
As for the ludicrous charges that the Siegelman prosecution was a Republican plot led by Rove, again, the truth is that Curran's groundbreaking and meticulously documented investigative stories clearly were the impetus for the Siegelman investigation. The stories were not pushed on him by Republican activists but instead came from his own independent perusal of financial records.
Moreover, the two lead state prosecutors on the case had Democratic pedigrees. Louis Franklin was hired at the attorney general's office by Redding Pitt, later chairman of the state Democratic Party. And Steve Feaga is a career prosecutor who earlier, under Democrat Jimmy Evans, had successfully prosecuted former Republican Gov. Guy Hunt.
Space cannot even begin to permit the voluminous refutation available for all of Simpson's grotesque imaginings. Until recently, she had alleged that her knowledge of Rove's involvement (beginning in 2002 -- not, as she now says, in 2001) in nefarious anti-Siegelman plots was limited to hearing top state Republicans refer to a "Karl" as the mastermind. Now, suddenly, she says that she met with Rove in person a full year before the later alleged skullduggery and that he "approached her" to ask her to take pictures of Siegelman cheating on his wife.
Words cannot express how obviously false this tale is. If 60 Minutes airs the story as planned, it will merit a hundredfold the criticism that the New York Times has so well earned in the past two days. As was famously written in another context, the TV news show would be guilty of being "a little nutty and a little slutty." Actually, we can drop the qualifier. This will be one cheap and sleazy one-night's ratings stand.
Quin Hillyer is an associate editor of the Washington Examiner and a senior editor of The American Spectator.
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