As if Richard N. Perle didn't have enough steaming manure on his legal plate with the Hollinger International scandal bursting all about him, this week the neoconservative macher noisily reiterated his 44-week-old threat to sue New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh for libel. As you may recall, last March Perle noisily announced in the New York Sun his intention to sue Hersh over a New Yorker feature that probed the nexus between Perle's business dealings and his official capacities as the chairman of the Defense Department's Defense Policy Board.
For Perle's reiteration, I thank him! As we entered the New Year and drew closer to the first anniversary of his original threat to sue Hersh, I had begun to worry that Perle would not provide me with the pretext for a last installment in my ongoing "Perle Libel Watch"* before the one-year statute of limitations ran out.
Since leveling his threat to sue Hersh—in English courts, where plaintiffs have the advantage in libel proceedings—Perle has kept something close to radio silence about his case. In the first installment of my Perle Libel Watch, I predicted that the grandstanding architect of Iraq regime change would never actually file charges. And as Perle's name repeatedly surfaced in the news during the year in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and elsewhere, usually in conjunction with a conflict-of-interest question, I continued to ask where, oh where, might that lawsuit be?
On Tuesday of this week, Perle produced just the new hook I needed for another episode of Libel Watch during an appearance on Amy Goodman's Pacifica Radio show, Democracy Now!, where he rehashed the merits of his case against Hersh in English court.
GOODMAN: Are you planning to sue Seymour Hersh? The statute of limitations is running out.
PERLE: There's time. As you well know, one has to prove malicious intent. That's a very difficult thing to prove. There is no question that the falsity of Hersh's allegations can be proven, can be established, and can be established in court, and those allegations were repeated in jurisdictions where you can get a finding on the truth.
"There'stime" isn't quite the same thing as the ink on the lawsuit is currently drying at my barrister's office. If, as Perle maintains, there is no question that the falsity of Hersh's allegations can be proved, established in court, and were repeated in jurisdictions where you can get a finding on the truth, then where in hell is his slam-dunk lawsuit? As for the "falsity" of Hersh's allegations, Perle has yet to explain how TheNew Yorker article libeled him. When the New York Sun asked 44 weeks ago what part of the story was incorrect, Perle replied, "It's all lies, from beginning to end."
If I were in charge of Perle's legal budget, I'd be spending more money on defense than offense these days. This week, the Economistreported that Perle, who is a member of the Hollinger International board of directors, and his fellow board members may "face legal consequences" as the investigation of the plundering of Conrad Black's media company continues. A suit filed by Hollinger shareholder Cardinal Value Equity Partners accuses the Hollinger directors of being "totally quiescent" as Lord Black and other executives "looted" $300 million.
In an interview with Charlie Rose last week, Perle said, "It's a great tragedy that it has come to this. … Hollinger probably should have exercised more restraint than it did and should have been responsive to the misgivings of shareholders earlier."
That drew a horselaugh from Laura Jereski, an analyst at shareholder Tweedy, Browne Co., reports today's National Post. Jereski says Perle was one of the Hollinger directors who received letters of complaint from Tweedy Browne in October 2001. Perle's comments were "a deft way to pass off the responsibility for one's own actions by hiding behind a corporation," she said. "These guys have been dodging responsibility since we first wrote to them."
According to the Chicago Tribune, Perle earned "an undisclosed $300,000 a year" for heading the Hollinger Digital subsidiary. The Guardian reports that Hollinger also invested £8 million (about $14.6 million) in Cambridge Display Technology, in which Perle holds an interest, and £1.5 million (or $2.7 million) in Trireme Associates, a venture capital fund co-managed by Perle. Although these payments and investments appear to have broken no law, the Guardian noted that they "call into question the independence of the Hollinger board."
Perle has just 54 days to file before his dream of smiting Hersh with a libel proceeding turns into a pumpkin. Will we see Perle in court, and moreover, will he be a plaintiff or a defendant?
It's not too early to start a Richard Perle Defense Fund, is it? Let me know at email@example.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)
In Week 1 of the "Richard Perle Libel Watch," Press Box double-dared Perle to sue Hersh. In Week 2, Press Box forum-shopped around the world for a better libel venue for Perle than England. In Week 3, Press Box chronicled the call for a congressional investigation of Perle's business ties. In Week 4, Press Box sobbed crocodilian tears as Perle resigned as the Defense Policy Board chair and the press exposed new potential conflicts of interest. In Week 9, the Los Angeles Times reported an instance in which Perle's private consulting overlapped in an unseemly manner with his DPB duties. In Week 20, Press Box visitedThe Nation's investigation of Perle, in which the magazine raised the question of whether he was exploiting his government position by charging foreign broadcasters for interviews. Week 34 described Perle's potential exposure in the Hollinger scandal. (Return to the story.)