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If Vanity Fair Will Publish an Expose on Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton Will Publish an Expose on Vanity Fair
Which is fine with the magazine's PR department

J.C., Clinton!

After Vanity Fair's long expose – a writearound, in fact, given that Bill Clinton refused to participate – in the July issue, which is getting more play thanks to the voluptuous Angelina Jolie gracing the cover, the ex-president's camp appears to have copy/pasted from its defense playbook, countering the article and the magazine that has a "penchant for libel."

Todd Purdum's article arrives just in time, because at some point this week, wife Hillary will be an after-thought as Barack Obama champions toward November, and our focus, genuinely, jumps to Obama vs McCain.

So while the public can still be relied upon for its interest in the Clintons, VF hits with "The Comeback Id," which opens with a not-so-kind portrayal of Clinton and his skeevy friends, like Ron Burkle, owner of the plane "Air Fuck One," and Steve Bing, whose favorite pastime is litigation. (Though there is this line: "In fairness, it should be said that Clinton???s entourage that weekend also included his daughter, Chelsea, and her boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, and no one who was there has adduced the slightest evidence that Clinton???s behavior was anything other than proper.")

The article, all nearly 10,000 words of it, which jumps around from his presidency and his scandals to his new sources of income and his role in his wife's campaign, can be summed up in this way: "What???s the matter with him?"

Writes Purdum:

As I sought to answer that question for myself, in conversations with dozens of current and onetime Clinton aides, many of whom I have known all these years (Clinton himself declined to be interviewed), I realized just how much about the former president is not known, and not knowable, at the moment, mostly because of his unapologetic stonewalling. Virtually no one, except Ron Burkle, knows just what Clinton put into Burkle???s investment business, or just what he has done since to earn millions of dollars, with the prospect of reaping millions more. Most of the names of the donors who have contributed some $500 million to Clinton???s library and foundation over the past decade are not known, either. Virtually no one, except his doctors and family, knows the precise state of Clinton???s health. Virtually no one really knows what strategic role he has played in his wife???s campaign.

And Clinton, for that matter, did not appreciate the attempt. His camp fired back with a lengthy retort that, for all intents and purposes, took a paintball gun, filled it with feces, aimed it at the Bank Street townhouse of Graydon Carter, and pulled the trigger.

A tawdry, anonymous quote-filled attack piece, published in this month's Vanity Fair magazine regarding former President Bill Clinton repeats many past attacks on him, ignores much prior positive coverage, includes numerous errors, and ultimately breaks no new ground. It is, in short, journalism of personal destruction at its worst.

The author, Todd Purdum, acknowledges speaking to over 50 people (almost all of them anonymous Washington insiders) before contacting President Clinton's office about his piece. Though he researched the piece for several months, his first contact with President Clinton's office was several weeks before he closed the story. Most revealing is one simple fact: President Clinton has helped save the lives of more than 1,300,000 people in his post-presidency, and Vanity Fair couldn't find time to talk to even one of them for comment. [...]

This piece was written by Todd Purdum, who is married to Dee Dee Myers, former White House Press Secretary. Purdum's disclosure of this in the piece does not, as Vanity Fair apparently concluded, remove the obvious conflict of interest. It's a conflict that would likely not be contemplated at more reputable publications, especially considering that, as a result of this relationship, at least one source's anonymity was revealed to others.

It is, however, but an example of Vanity Fair's ethical challenges. Since 1992, media outlets have reported on the magazine's penchant for libel, which has led to numerous lawsuits. The suits came from a wide range of people including: a former chess prodigy, Julia Sarwer; Mohamed Fayed; and American bio-weapons specialist and outed-anonymous source, Steven Jay Hatfill. In 2004, one of the magazine's "premier" writers, Dominick Dunne, was accused of paying a woman to lie for his stories. And in late 2006, the conservative author David Frum took to the pages of Huffington Post to explain how, "[i]n short, Vanity Fair transformed a Washington debate over "how to correct course and win the war" to advance obsessions all their own." [Huffington Post, 11/4/06]

Furthermore, several new outlets including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported in 2004 on Editor in Chief Graydon Carter's capitalization on his position at Vanity Fair to explore consulting and investment deals. Specifically, they examined connections between Carter's personal consulting deals with movie companies and Vanity Fair's coverage. It was revealed that Carter had received a $100,000 consultant fee for suggesting to Hollywood producer Brian Grazer that Sylvia Nasar's book, A Beautiful Mind (which had been excerpted in Vanity Fair), be adapted into a movie. [Columbia Journalism Review, Jan/Feb 2007] [Politico]

Jun 2, 2008 · Link · Respond
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