In his book, Blumenthal claims that I had been "used at every turn by everyone from Jones's lawyer to Lucianne Goldberg to Starr." The charge by now is well-worn and easy to dispose of. To be "used" in journalism is to be fed false information from an interested party. If the material is published without proper verification, the reporter gets egg on his or her face. That never happened in my case: My stories on the Lewinsky saga in Newsweek hold up as well today as when they were written. No question I played a major role in exposing key details of Kenneth Starr's investigation into the Clinton-Lewinsky matter. But I was also the first to report many crucial questions about Ken Starr's case—the ambiguity of the Tripp-Lewinsky tapes on whether Vernon Jordan asked Lewinsky to lie, for example, or Linda Tripp's deceitful role in arranging her own subpoena in the Paula Jones case—appeared first in the pages of Newsweek under my byline. That's one reason why my reporting on the Lewinsky affair won a National Magazine Award, as well as a host of other journalistic prizes.
My book Uncovering Clinton contains the first thorough account of the role of the "elves" (my term)—the cadre of conservative lawyers who secretly guided the Paula Jones case. Blumenthal uses the term and appropriates other important material from my book—in some cases without attribution. See, for example, his account on Page 351 of a critical dinner in Philadelphia, when the elves first informed a member of Starr's staff about the existence of Lewinsky. Blumenthal doesn't explain where he got this information. In fact, he got it from Page 267 of Uncovering Clinton. Although Blumenthal quotes from Uncovering Clinton at times, he seems to go out of his way to avoid sourcing it when he finds something useful. In one case, Blumenthal (on Page 224) uses a quote from a Washington Post editor describing Executive Editor Len Downie's attitude toward Whitewater. ("Len thinks this is his Watergate.") Blumenthal sources the quote to a book by Marvin Kalb, One Scandalous Story. In fact, if readers turn to Kalb's book, they'll see where he got the quote—from Page 36 of Uncovering Clinton.
Blumenthal makes a couple of allegations about me that are worth responding to. He claims on Page 356 that I "forgot to report" (and by implication concealed from my readers) information that undercut widespread suspicions at the time that President Clinton's lawyers had crafted the "talking points" memo Lewinsky had given to Tripp. (If they had, it was arguably obstruction of justice.) The information in question was a letter that Tripp had sent to Newsweek five months earlier, in August 1997, which seemed to use some of the same language as the talking points. The similarity suggested that the mysterious talking points memo had emerged as a result of conversations between Tripp and Lewinsky rather than by dictation from White House lawyers.
It is true that, during the early days of the scandal, I "forgot" about the August 1997 letter. Blumenthal knows this only because I wrote about it in my book. But while Blumenthal quotes me writing about my imperfect memory, he ignores the very next sentence in the book—one that demolishes his implication that I was concealing exculpatory evidence about the president from the readers of Newsweek. That sentence (on Page 402 of Uncovering Clinton) states that as soon as I remembered the letter a few weeks into the scandal, "I pressed my editors for full disclosure as quickly as possible and Newsweek, in three separate issues over the ensuing months, cited the August 1997 Tripp letter as possibly casting doubt on the theory of secret White House authorship of the Talking Points."
Finally, Blumenthal writes somewhat comically that I "had been secretly meeting for years with David Brock," the disreputable right wing dirt-digger who was serving as Blumenthal's spy on the world of the elves and Starr's office throughout the Lewinsky scandal. Let's see. I can recall two or three meetings with Brock over the years—including a lunch in 1996—I agreed to show him some of my leftover reporting from the Paula Jones case in exchange for an advanced peek at his upcoming book on Hillary Clinton. But "secretly"? I'm a reporter. I'm quite sure I put the lunch down on my expense account. I didn't realize I was supposed to notify Sid Blumenthal as well.