Accomplices? Funny, but I didn’t see her byline on the tremendous, world-beating scoops—the ones pulled off by actual, non-commentating reporters, journalists who actually work for a living—that brought Spitzer down.
The press—and let’s face it, this has been The New York Times at its best—has done a spectacular job on this story. It is the press that blew Spitzer out of office like he was shot out of a cannon.
Was it the Times’s pro-Spitzer bias that led it to pursue this story—down to the interview with Spitzer’s prostitute’s mom—like a pack of ravenous wolves?
Journal editorialists, by the way, contributed exactly zero information to this story, just the usual pro-crook hot air.
Strassel, of course, isn’t referring to the journalists who brought Spitzer low, but to the other journalists, the lapdogs, who reported on his tenure as New York attorney general.
He knew, too, that as financial journalism has become more competitive, breaking news can make a career. He doled out scoops to favored reporters, who repaid him with allegiance. News organizations that dared to criticize him were cut off. After a time, few criticized anymore.
It should be noted that her colleagues at The Wall Street Journal, particularly Charlie Gasparino, now of CNBC, scored as many Spitzer scoops as anyone, if not more.
Of course, no names are named here.
See, that might lead to unpleasantness in line at the Au Bon Pain at the World Financial Center, where the Journal has its offices. Still, who are those favored reporters who “built their careers” on the wreckage of all those innocent lives?
These press-bashers never name names. Forbes’s publisher, Rich Karlgaad, pulled the same stunt a couple of week ago:
Journalism is populated by left-of-center people, many of whom are hostile to business.
Similarly, Strassel must scrape the published record to find evidence to support her thesis that the press ignored Spitzer’s supposed excesses.
She says, for instance, the press acted somehow improperly in reporting a tit-for-tat between Spitzer and John Whitehead, a respected Wall Street figure who published op-eds critical of Spitzer:
Within a few days, the press was reporting (unsourced, of course) that Mr. Whitehead had defended Mr. Greenberg a few weeks after a Greenberg charity had given $25 million to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation—a group Mr. Whitehead chaired. So Mr. Whitehead’s on-the-record views were met with an unsourced smear implying bad faith. The press ran with it anyway.
So, the press ran with accurate information. Wow.
Here’s another supposed press atrocity that just doesn’t hold up.
New York Stock Exchange caretaker CEO John Reed suggested Mr. Spitzer hadn’t told the truth when he said that it was Mr. Reed who wanted him to investigate Mr. Grasso’s pay. The press never investigated.
Did Spitzer have an effective news operation? Oh, yes. Were his complaints written like John Grisham novels, with the best and most incriminating e-mails quoted prominently, so that hurried reporters on deadline would see them? Yes. Were the e-mails then attached as exhibits, conveniently available to reporters in pdf format? Sure were. The fact is, he had a great press operation and was press savvy himself.
But all of that was secondary to the fact that his tenure as attorney general was simply one incredible story.
The only practitioner of supposed pro-Spitzer bias actually named in the Strassel piece is Brooke Masters, a reporter for the Financial Times, formerly of The Washington Post.
In an uncritical 2006 biography, then Washington Post reporter Brooke Masters compared the attorney general to no less than Teddy Roosevelt.
(Where, one wonders, would Strassel have stood had she been writing when the Rough Rider was fighting the Dick Grassos and Hank Greenbergs of his era to break up Standard Oil and pass the Clean Food and Drug Act? On TR’s side? I doubt it.)
I filled in on the Spitzer beat at The Washington Post while Masters was writing her biography, Spoiling for a Fight (you can find my sneaky pro-Spitzer pieces in the Post archives).
To call Masters’s book uncritical is just foolish. I notice Strassel doesn’t quote from it. But I will.