Since this issue has reared its head around here - Long post – but if anyone cares, I think it’s interesting.
First of all, a disclaimer: Nothing in this post should in any way be construed as support for, or confirmation of, Jason Leopold’s Karl Rove indictment story. I take no position on the veracity of that story. I’m interested instead in what appears to have been a deliberate and very well orchestrated attempt to discredit Leopold - related to the publication of that story.
So here goes…
The Washington Post Piles on Jason Leopold
On June 18, 2006, an opinion piece <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte... > appeared in the OpEd section of The Washington Post by a “freelance” reporter named Joe Lauria. The piece was a scathing attack on Jason Leopold of TruthOut. In his article, Lauria made the dramatic and serious charge, among others, that Leopold had misrepresented himself as Mr. Lauria in a phone call to Karl Rove spokesman Mark Corallo the previous month - just days prior to his publication of the Rove indictment story. Leopold made this representation, according to Lauria, in an effort to deceive Corallo into sharing information about the ongoing Fitzgerald investigation. The charges in the article were widely reprinted around the blogosphere and served to quite effectively discredit both Leopold and TruthOut.
This trashing took hold despite the fact that Leopold’s reporting on the Fitzgerald case - on both Raw Story and TruthOut - had been ahead of the MSM for several months, and indicated the high likelihood that Leopold possessed a reliable source with information on the investigation.
This hit piece followed the publication, the previous month, of another hit piece <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte... > by Post “reporter” Howard Kurtz about the Leopold/Rove story. Incredibly, this was the second attack <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/artic... > by Kurtz on Leopold in the pages of the Post that spring.
A great deal of circumstantial evidence suggests that all of these articles were part of a deliberate and sophisticated effort to falsely accuse Leopold of lying and to discredit him and/or his reporting. The evidence suggests this effort to discredit Leopold was underway prior to his May 13, 2006 TruthOut report, but was only fully carried out upon the publication of that report - and upon the publication of the Lauria hit piece.
Attackers tell conflicting stories
The first sign that something was amiss was that Howard Kurtz, Joe Lauria and Mark Corallo didn’t get their own stories straight in their attacks. It’s tricky, but follow this:
In his June 18 attack piece Lauria tells an oddly unbelievable tale of how he hit upon the idea that Leopold must have impersonated him. He relates that:
"I trawled the Internet looking for a clue to the truth. I found a blog called Talk Left....
...reported that Corallo said he had "never spoken with someone identifying himself as 'Jason Leopold.' He did have conversations Saturday and Sunday . . . but the caller identified himself as Joel something or other from the London... Sunday Times. . . . A chill went down my back. I freelance for the Sunday Times. My first name is often mistaken for Joel...I called Corallo. He confirmed that my name was the one the caller had used."
In this account Lauria claims to have pieced together Leopold's malfeasance thanks to his own artful snooping on the Web.
However, in his May 22 Washington Post hatchet job on Leopold - immediately following the TruthOut indictment story -
Kurtz reported that it was in fact Corallo who contacted Joe Lauria after amazingly piecing together Leopold’s use of the phrase “borders on defamation” in a “conversation” with a “liberal blogger”:
"Corallo says a man identifying himself as London Sunday Times contributor Joe Lauria called about the story, which Corallo told him 'borders on defamation.' The man left what turned out to be a wrong number. After Leopold told a liberal blogger that Corallo had told him that the story bordered on defamation, Corallo reached Lauria..."
It's notable that much of the same vitriolic language about Leopold appears in both Kurtz's May 22 piece and Lauria's attack piece, much of it almost word for word.
But they didn't quite get their stories straight. Lauria says he figured it all out and called Mark Corallo. But Corallo had already said publicly that he figured it all out and called Joe Lauria.
Some questions: Had Joe Lauria ever previously spoken with Mark Corallo? Had he ever done any work on the Rove story? How or from whom did he obtain Corallo’s phone number on Monday May 15? Howard Kurtz maybe? Or did he already have it?
Strange meeting between Joe Lauria and Leopold
Additionally, in his June 18 attack, Lauria describes a curious encounter he allegedly had with Leopold three days prior to Leopold’s publication of his Rove indictment story. In it he states that he spoke with Jason Leopold on May 10, 2006 “…to discuss his recently published memoir, News Junkie." He then goes on to relate and quote all manner of nasty journalistic practices that he claims Leopold related to him at that time. He then concludes that “…Before we parted, I told him a bit about myself -- that I freelance for numerous newspapers, including the Sunday Times of London…”
He makes this disclosure in an effort to explain how Leopold allegedly came to use his identity with Corallo three days later. (See The TalkLeft Charade below)
This account seriously begs a few questions: First, under what pretense was Lauria interviewing or meeting with Leopold under which his work for The Sunday Times et al was only mentioned “…Before we parted…”, and not at the outset? Was this meeting random or arranged? How extensive was it? Why would a mainstream UN reporter be interviewing Leopold about his book, if indeed he was? Was the Rove case discussed at all at this meeting?
For whom was Lauria writing a “book review” of Leopold’s book? It’s extremely hard to believe he would simply decide to do such a thing on his own initiative and then seek a buyer. Book reviews don’t seem to be a part of his usual UN beat.
This strange meeting would seem to suggest that Joe Lauria was already engaged by someone to do a hit piece on Leopold prior to May 10. This then means that the Rove indictment story was either anticipated by Corallo and Lauria, (a scenario with stunning implications) or was very rapidly seized upon as an opportunity to throw some new and false accusations at Leopold.
The TalkLeft Charade
A crucial series of events in the effort to falsely implicate Jason Leopold appears to have taken place on May 15, 2006 when Mark Corallo called Jeralyn Merritt, the publisher of the liberal blog TalkLeft. Corallo called Merritt on the pretense of responding to Leopold’s TruthOut story, and claims made to Merritt by Leopold the previous day and reported <http://talkleft.com/new_archives/014843.ht... > on TalkLeft.
According to Merritt, Corallo reportedly began his call to her by stating that “He has never spoken with someone identifying himself as ‘Jason Leopold.’
He then continues his statement by curiously emphasizing some seemingly irrelevant information:
“He has never spoken with someone identifying himself as ‘Jason Leopold.’ He did have conversations Saturday and Sunday… the caller identified himself as Joel something or other from the London Sunday Times. The calls were to his home number. At one point during their last conversation, he offered to call Joel back, and was given a cell phone number that began with 917. When he called the number back, it turned out not to be a number for Joel…”
The evidence suggests that that the account by Corallo in this statement to Merritt is entirely contrived.
The name 'Joel' and the 'London Sunday Times' and the completely extraneous reference to area code '917' were deliberately and prominently included by Corallo in his statement to Merritt with the foreknowledge that they would be used by Joe Lauria to falsely accuse Jason Leopold of lying. There is no other logical reason to have included this information in his statement at a point when he had supposedly not yet even heard of Joe Lauria.
Corallo then followed up with Merritt later that evening (see same post) to complete the circle and point Merritt to Joe Lauria as the aggrieved journalist victim of Jason Leopold.
In short, in strongly appears that Mark Corallo, and Joe Lauria deliberately used Jeralyn Merritt and TalkLeft in a well executed scheme to frame Jason Leopold for lying about his identity and discredit his work.
Who is Joe Lauria?
Joe Lauria appears at first blush to be an accredited progressive journalist. Most recent references to Mr. Lauria and his work reveal an evenhanded and thoughtful writer on subjects such as the run up to the Iraq war, etc. His work has even coincidentally included at least one appearance on Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” show on CNN.
However, it’s very difficult to find anything on Mr. Lauria dated prior to 2003 or so.
What old work is searchable is interesting in how it directly contrasts with his more recent stuff. For example: this 2001 Boston Globe piece, Seeking Saddam’s Smoking Gun <http://www.spiritoftruth.org/cached/Seekin... >, still viewable at Free Republic.
Lauria's source for that article was wingnut Laurie Mylroie <http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/... >, who is chummy with John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, and Richard Perle.
Or this 2001 Saddam = Bio weapons piece <http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issue... > In the Vancouver Sun. Interesting how his outlook seems to have flipped.
I’d love to find this article <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/020311.htm > referenced in 2002 by the warmongering Center for Nonproliferation Studies: Joe Lauria, "How Bin Laden Tried to Get the Bomb," Gazette (Montreal), October 2, 2001, p. B1, but the Gazette doesn’t seem to have it up any longer.
Anyway, Lauria appears to have been focused for quite some time on issues relating to both the UN and Saddam’s alleged ties to bio weapons.
Interestingly, another guy who’s been vocally obsessed with the UN and the alleged Saddam/Bio weapons ties for years is former Representative Bob Livingstone - ex-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and current partner in the high-powered neo-con lobbying and propaganda shop, The Livingston Group <http://www.livingstongroupdc.com/ >. See Livingston Group involvement in the infamous Jessica Lynch PR / PsyOps operation <http://www.prwatch.org/node/2270 >
And who was Congressman Livingston’s Press Secretary from 1996-1999? Yep, Mark Corallo <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title... >.
So what’s the point of this long post?
If anyone’s managed to follow this whole post, may I try to justify myself a bit. I know this stuff is long-winded and conspiratorial. However, I think its importance lies in the fact that it may open a tiny window on the sick machinations of our media gatekeepers. I think that, while speculative, it makes a circumstantial case that much more goes on in our media and Web world than meets the eye. Call me crazy. You won’t be the first.
I should also add that I have no relation to Jason Leopold whatsoever. I have emailed Leopold, Jeralyn Merritt, Marc Ash, Joe Lauria, and Howard Kurtz with questions about these matters. I have received zero response from all of them.