The Drudge Report: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Back in February, Matt Drudge wrote an undocumented story claiming that one of John Kerry’s interns had fled the country at the candidate’s request, just as Kerry was fighting off a “media probe of recent alleged infidelity.” In the piece, Drudge claimed that Wesley Clark had told a group of reporters that “Kerry will implode over an intern issue” in an off-the-record conversation.

The Kerry intern story turned out to be bogus, as did the claim that Clark had spread the rumor. As Campaign Desk noted at the time (and has written about subsequently as well), The New Republic’s Ryan Lizza and reporters we spoke to on background who were present for the comments all confirm that Clark never said anything about an intern during the conversation in question. The retired general did say he believed there was a story coming out that might damage Kerry, but, according to one reporter, he didn’t seem to have any idea what it might be.

Thankfully, the rumor about Kerry’s infidelity seems to have faded into the ether. But, maddeningly, the claim that Clark spread the rumor has endured. An alert reader emailed us today about a Boston Globe piece by Peter Canellos containing the following paragraph:

Then [in] the last days of his campaign, Clark reportedly told a few reporters he was hanging on because he heard Kerry might be exposed as having had an affair with an intern. The affair never materialized, but Clark may have revealed a problem of his own, not being able to keep his mouth shut.

The irony here is that Clark did show, in the episode, that he sometimes says things he probably shouldn’t. He just didn’t say what Drudge, and subsequently Newsweek, the Associated Press, and, now, The Boston Globe, say he did. The rest of Canellos’ story is excellent, and far from a hit piece: It concludes with the statement that “Kerry could do far worse” than selecting Clark as his running mate. It’s just too bad he didn’t bother to check up on the validity of a claim that’s been debunked many times — and that originated with a source who pegs his own accuracy rate (generously) at 80 percent.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.