SlateMea Culpas

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May 24 1999 10:17 PM

SlateMea Culpas

The Shearered Truth

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Readers who might enjoy parsing all the careless errors in A.O. Scott's silly piece about Cody Shearer and Chris Matthews should stop right here, and use your very thoughtful link to my current Salon column. It's a longish list, I'm afraid, but most of Scott's mistakes should be obvious to anyone who can read. Just to correct the record in Slate, here they are:

Scott writes: "On Jan. 8 last year, shortly after she had testified in the Paula Jones trial, Willey reportedly had a frightening encounter with a jogger near her house in Richmond, Va." Fact: As I mentioned, the alleged incident on Jan. 8 was three days before Willey testified in the Jones case. Otherwise, what was the point of "intimidating" her?

Scott writes: "Matthews seemed to have a pretty good idea who [the mysterious jogger] was--an idea that he got from the Drudge Report." Fact: As I noted, the Drudge Report picked up the jogger's supposed identity from the Matthews broadcast in an item posted the following day. That's why the column was primarily about Matthews.

Scott writes: "The next night, chatting with Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and NOW President Patricia Ireland, Matthews was less coy. The Shearer in question, he declared, was Brooke's twin brother, Cody." Fact: As I wrote, quoting the transcript of May 11, Matthews identified Cody Shearer by name the night Willey appeared. There are many words to describe the way Matthews behaved. "Coy" is not among them.

Scott writes: "Shearer could not have been Willey's stalker, Conason declared, because he was on a transcontinental flight last Jan. 8--a flight on which Shearer happened to bump into his brother-in-law's old boss former Secretary of State Warren Christopher." Fact: Actually, what I "declared" was that Shearer has documents proving he was in San Francisco Jan. 8--and that he sat next to Christopher on a flight back to Washington Jan. 11. This mistake is a little worse than what Matthews did. He had to make a phone call to get the facts. All Scott had to do was read them.

Scott writes: "According to a recent Drudge posting, a man with a gun was arrested outside Shearer's house a few days after Matthews' Willey segment aired." Fact: (This is exhausting) Many news sources, including the AP, reported the appearance of a gun-waving man at Shearer's home, not just Drudge. Those same sources also made it clear that the gun nut wasn't arrested outside Shearer's house, but in fact arranged voluntary surrender to the police a few days later.

As for my failure to "explain" why nutty people are nuts--and why they weave Shearer family conspiracies around an event that may or may not really have occurred--that is beyond my competence. Sort of like journalism (or even reading) is for A. O. Scott.

Best regards,
Joe Conason

A.O. Scott replies:I thank Joe Conason for pointing out my errors, and I apologize to the readers of Slate for my carelessness. The article as now published reflects the corrections.

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