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Todd Purdum Admits: He Was Stirring the Gossip Pot, Not Reporting (Sorry, "Insinuating") Anything

Vanity Fair yesterday trotted out Todd Purdum, the author of the 10,000-word Bill Clinton piece "The Comeback Id" article," on CNN's The Situation Room, where Wolf Blitzer read passages from the Clinton camp's lengthy response, and Purdum had a chance to defend himself against accusations that he penned what amounts to an egregiously long gossip column.

Below, we're going to quote a few big chunks from his CNN interview. But one general theme is clear: Purdum's defense against the ex-president's rebuttal is that he doesn't insinuate anything about Clinton; he simply is reporting some of the concerns about people who know Clinton.

Know what that sounds like? Jossip's entire M.O.

We don't always care about the facts of a story; we care whether insiders are pushing one gossip tidbit or another, because the mere presence of somebody's agenda is, to us, newsworthy. If whatever piece of information a source is pushing turns out to be true, fantastic — but the inner workings of the gossip industry is what always gets our attention.

Vanity Fair, however, does not stoop to this "low," as some might describe it. The magazine aims to be an upstanding, above-the-fray news source. But it's very arguable that Purdum's story did nothing but stir the gossip mill, push insiders' agendas, and make for very interesting inside baseball commentary. And it will sell magazine's for Graydon Carter and Conde Nast. But it will not help brand the magazine's reputation in authenticity.

True, reporters need not "insinuate" anything. The facts of the matter should do that. But basing your entire pitch on, say, doctors who have never treated Clinton is like a celebrity tabloid, well, doing the exact same thing.

And with that, Purdum's defense:

On Clinton's health:

BLITZER: In their rebuttal, the Bill Clinton office — they issued a lengthy rebuttal today, which you have seen — among other things, they say this: "Purdum, who is not an M.D., quotes one doctor who has never examined President Clinton, and who provides a hypothetical analysis — from at least several hundred miles away — to support this claim. This theory is false and is flatly rejected by President Clinton's doctors, who say he is in excellent shape and point to his vigorous schedule as evidence of his exceptional recovery."

You want to respond to that?

PURDUM: He certainly keeps a vigorous schedule. And I don't say that he doesn't.

I do say that his aides say that he tires more easily than he used to and he doesn't have the same kind of stamina. And I made it clear that the doctor I quoted, who is a very prominent cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, has been involved in President Clinton's care. And I quote a range of other medical literature in sort of general terms about this phenomenon.

I don't suggest that anyone can say, except perhaps his own doctors, over time, with certainty that this has affected President Clinton. But, again, this article involves reporting with a whole bunch of people who have worked for Bill Clinton over many years. And this is one of the things they raised with me. I didn't go raising this.


Some people who work for him now say that he seems to be angry all the time, angry when he gets up in the morning and angry when he goes to bed at night. He's clearly very angry at the media and he's very angry at the way he sees Senator Clinton's campaign has been treated.

On Clinton's lady loving:

BLITZER: Probably the most explosive part of the article includes this notion of some sort of intervention, which was necessitated by the suggestion you make that he's still philandering, or whatever.

Here's what you write: "Four former Clinton aides told me that, about 18 months ago, one of the president's former assistants, who still advises him on political matters, had heard so many complaints about such reports from Clinton supporters around the country that he felt compelled to try to conduct what one of these aides called an intervention, because, the aide believed, Clinton was apparently seeing a lot of women on the road."

You quote these anonymous sources. And it sounds like rumor, basically.

But go ahead and explain what the point is.

PURDUM: Well, I'm very careful to say that there is no clear-cut evidence that President Clinton has done anything improper. What I am careful to say and what is the truth is that this former senior aide was concerned enough that prominent Democrats around the country were complaining about hearing reports of this in their own backyard that he felt President Clinton should be made aware of it and should know that it was out there in the slipstream, in the water, so to speak, and that it could have an effect in the campaign season.

That's all I say. I don't say anything more.

BLITZER: But does that rise up to the threshold required to make to make — to make what obviously is a very serious insinuation, that he's still cheating on Hillary Clinton?

PURDUM: Wolf, I don't make that insinuation. I don't make that insinuation in any place in the story. And I'm quite careful to say that I'm not.

What I'm saying is that some of his own aides are concerned about these reports. That's all I say. And I think the point here is, I'm not quoting Ken Starr's operatives. I'm not quoting opposition researchers for Barack Obama. I'm not quoting Republican lawyers or private eyes.

I'm quoting people who work and used to work and still work for Bill

[Watch the video: CNN]

Jun 3, 2008 · Link · 2 Responses
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  • Comments (2)
    No. 1 Bobby says:

    Saw em on !!! F'in Hilarious!

    Posted: Jun 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm
    No. 2 LA Roth says:

    This is gossip, not newsworthy. Of more interest is that Purddum was connected to Ken Starr, then he marries DD Myers? That's all kind of stinky, but also like a script of West Wing. As for Vanity Fair — don't read it, not interested now either.

    Posted: Jun 3, 2008 at 8:00 pm
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