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Context of 'May 15, 2006: Controversy Surrounds Unconfirmed Reports of Rove’s Indictment'

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CBS News notes the storm of controversy surrounding the recent report by investigative journalist Jason Leopold that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted (see May 12, 2006 and May 13, 2006). CBS columnist Vaughn Ververs notes: “Had either of these stories appeared on the front page of the New York Times, or in Newsweek magazine, we would be in the throes of a media feeding frenzy. The Sunday show slates would have been hurriedly rearranged to capitalize on this new ‘bombshell’ and America would have woken up this morning to watch Rove make the quick walk-and-duck from his front door to his waiting car. But so far, Leopold’s story stands alone.”
Flat Denials - No mainstream media Web site has yet confirmed Leopold’s reporting, which he has claimed includes statements from “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee,” and White House officials, along with Rove’s lawyers and spokesmen, are flatly denying the reports: Rove’s spokesman Mark Corallo tells journalists, “The story is a complete fabrication,” and calls it “both malicious and disgraceful.” Ververs notes Leopold’s unusual step of promising to reveal his sources if the story turns out not to be true (see May 15, 2006). [CBS News, 5/15/2006; New York Sun, 5/15/2006]
Rove's Lawyer Not at Office, but at Veterinarian - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin tells a reporter that, instead of spending May 12 at his offices dealing with an indictment, he spent that day at the veterinarian’s office having his cat treated. The cat’s medical tests, Luskin says, found that “the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case.” Leopold’s report is “bizarre,” Luskin adds. “There was no meeting, no communication with Fitzgerald’s team of any kind.” Washington Post reporter and media observer Howard Kurtz notes that many in the media are beginning to report on Leopold’s past, which includes drug addiction, a felony conviction, and previous inaccurate reporting. Leopold’s publisher at Truthout.org, Marc Ash, tells Kurtz, “Jason is a character, but he’s been straight with me and I’ve checked him out very carefully.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2006]
Defending Leopold - Progressive author and blogger Joshua Frank, who describes himself as a friend of Leopold’s, notes that Leopold has become a target for Bush and Libby supporters. Leopold has written candidly about what Frank calls his “checkered” past—misrepresenting himself to gain a position at the Los Angeles Times, stealing from a New York record company to support a cocaine habit—but Leopold never served jail time, unlike some press reports claimed, and Frank considers him a reliable reporter. “Had Jason broke his latest story for the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it’s unlikely he’d be subject to the same ridicule,” Frank writes. “But when an indy writer gets a major scoop before anybody in the mainstream major media does, animosity is sure to follow. And that’s why the outcome of this saga will either legitimize independent media, or devastate it.” Frank notes that Truthout.org has said that three “reporters from mainstream media” have “shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support.” Leopold himself says: “I am amazed that the blogosphere would lend credence to the statements of people who have consistently lied about Rove’s role in this case. This is a White House that denied Rove’s involvement in the leak. This is a White House that has lied and lied and lied. And yet the first question that people ask is ‘why would Rove’s spokesman lie?’ Because they can, because they do, and because they have. This is an administration that has attacked and discredited their detractors. I am amazed that not a single reporter would actually do any real investigative work and get to the bottom of this story. Surely, there must be another intrepid reporter out there that has sources beyond a spokesman.” [Joshua Frank, 5/17/2006]
Orchestrated Response? - Truthout’s Ash will later write that he believes it was Corallo who gave Ash’s phone number to the Post’s Kurtz for Kurtz’s story (see May 21, 2006); Corallo knew Kurtz was writing a story about how, in Corallo’s words, the mainstream media had to “follow up on the lunacy and these frauds who are passing themselves off as legitimate journalists.” Both Ash and criminal lawyer Jeralyn Merritt believe that Corallo is working with Kurtz, to some extent, to orchestrate the Post’s response to the Rove indictment story. [Jeralyn Merritt, 5/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Howard Kurtz, CBS News, Bush administration (43), Jason Leopold, Joshua Frank, Vaughn Ververs, Mark Corallo, Marc Ash, Jeralyn Merritt, Robert Luskin

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Truthout.org publisher Marc Ash issues a lengthy statement concerning the recent controversy stirred up by his publication’s claim that Karl Rove would be indicted as a part of the Plame Wilson leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Two days before, Ash issued a statement saying that while he stands behind the story, he and his publication may have gotten “too far out in front of the news-cycle” (see May 19, 2006). Ash now writes that he and investigative reporter Jason Leopold have three independent sources confirming that Rove’s attorneys “were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13.” The sources are knowledgeable, says Ash. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has refused to comment on the report. Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin and his spokesman Mark Corallo have categorically denied that Rove was indicted (see May 15, 2006), but Ash says, “we have information that directly contradicts Luskin and Corallo’s denials.” Ash says that two news networks stationed crews outside the building that houses the law firm of Patton Boggs, where Luskin works, and that the fourth floor of that building, where Patton Boggs’s offices are, was “locked down all day Friday and into Saturday night,” May 12 and 13. No one has asked Truthout to retract its story. And the White House has refused to comment. Ash notes that much of Truthout’s reporting depends on confidential sources. “We know that a report based solely on information obtained from confidential sources bears some inherent risks,” he writes. “We know that this is—by far—the biggest story we have ever covered, and that we are learning some things as we go along. Finally, we know that we have the support of those who have always supported us, and that must now earn the support of those who have joined us as of late.” Ash then writes of what he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot prove. They believe Rove, through Luskin and Corallo, is working with Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz to “spin” the story in a disfavorable light for Truthout and Leopold. He notes that many conservative media outlets have attacked Truthout, Leopold, and the Fitzgerald investigation in general, and writes: “We believe that rolling out that much conservative journalistic muscle to rebut this story is telling. And we believe that Rove’s camp is making a concerted effort to discredit our story and our organization.” Ash concludes by saying he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot document their belief, that Rove may be cooperating with the Fitzgerald investigation. “We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald’s investigation may have broadened—clearly to [Vice President Dick] Cheney—and according to one ‘off the record source’ to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame [Wilson]. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation.” [Truthout (.org), 5/21/2006] A month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Jason Leopold, Karl C. Rove, Marc Ash, Mark Corallo, Robert Luskin, Truthout (.org), Patton Boggs LLC

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Marc Ash, the publisher of the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org), attempts to distance his publication from reports it provided that asserted, falsely, that White House political strategist Karl Rove had been indicted (see May 13, 2006 and June 13, 2006). Ash says that because of the “hysteria” surrounding the reports—including an unsubstantiated report that Truthout reporter Jason Leopold had impersonated another reporter in the course of his reporting (see June 18, 2006)—Truthout is “going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time.” Truthout will instead “defer… to the nation’s leading publications,” which have never verified Leopold’s reporting. “We are expressly endeavoring to mitigate hysteria,” Ash says. At the same time, he adds, “There is no indication that Mr. Leopold acted unethically… we stand firmly behind Jason Leopold.” Ash says he is not convinced that the story of Leopold’s posing as another reporter is true: that story, he says, “originated with Mark Corallo,” Rove’s spokesman. “Corallo seems to think that Jason Leopold misrepresented himself as Joe Luria [sic]… as an attempt to get Corallo on the telephone.… I haven’t gotten anything to back that up.” [TPM Muckraker, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Truthout (.org), Marc Ash, Mark Corallo

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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