Roger Stone Sings Again
Why isn't the Washington Post covering his latest embarrassment?
Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Roger Stone's latest humiliation is that the Washington Post has yet to report on it. It's possible the Post is slow to jump on the story only because it's late August, a time when newsrooms are traditionally short-staffed, and news travels with unaccustomed slowness. But one can't help wondering whether the Post has simply decided that the decline and fall of a once-powerful Republican political consultant—dubbed the "state-of-the-art sleazeball" 22 years ago in the New Republic (by future Slate editor Jacob Weisberg)—is well-enough along that it really isn't news that Stone apparently left the 83-year-old father of Elliot Spitzer, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, a bizarre and hate-filled voice message in which Stone gloated over a subpoena headed the elderly gentleman's way from the Republican-controlled New York State Senate. In the message, Stone apparently referred to the New York governor as "your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son."
I say "apparently" only because Stone claims, pathetically, that somebody else broke into his apartment and made the phone call from his phone. Somebody capable of performing an uncannily good impersonation of Stone's own voice. Click on the player below to listen to the message:
Stone suspects his landlord, who "has been hostile and has hassled me through management about supposedly late rent checks." Stone's client, New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, nonetheless cut Stone loose, "based on the allegations," and perhaps also on the ineptitude of Stone's alibi, which placed him in the audience of the Broadway play Frost/Nixon on a night when that play was not performed. Stone is still a sleaze ball, but he can no longer be termed state-of-the-art.
In his 1985 New Republic piece, Weisberg identified Stone as a pioneer of the now-routine practice whereby a consultant helps a member of Congress get elected and then proceeds to lobby said member on behalf of private corporations. (It's reassuring to remember there was a time when people could be shocked by such things.) Stone acquired his taste for the gutter in 1972, when the soon-to-be Watergate felon Charles Colson directed Stone to send campaign contributions to a Nixon opponent in the names of radical groups and then forward the receipts to the right-wing Manchester Union-Leader. News of the prank subsequently got Stone fired from the staff of Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan. (though Dole would later hire Stone to work on his 1996 presidential campaign). Stone went on to co-found the influential National Conservative Political Action Committee and to become partners with Lee Atwater, who later became President George H.W. Bush's Karl Rove.
The 1990s and the aughts were less kind to Stone. He received much ridicule for devoting his energies to making a star out of Clive Baldwin, a lounge singer whose specialty was impersonating Al Jolson, sometimes in blackface. In 1996, the National Enquirer splashed on its cover a story alleging that Stone and his wife * posted ads for group sex in swingers' magazines. (Stone denied it.) Stone's reputation rebounded, at least among right-wingers, when journalist Jeffrey Toobin credited him with organizing the "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami-Dade County, Fla., during the contested presidential recount, but it tumbled again when Stone was revealed to be orchestrating Al Sharpton's presidential campaign in 2004. According to the Village Voice, Stone told Sharpton that they shared "a mutual obsession: We both hate the Democratic party."
Now Stone has hit bottom. Me, I think that's more than a local New York story.
Correction, Aug. 27, 2007: An earlier version of this column stated, erroneously, that Stone remarried after the National Enquirer ran its story. In fact, Stone remains married to the woman identified in the Enquirer piece as "Nikki," which is her nickname. Her real name is Nydia. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.