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Little Truth, Big Cost

WorldNetDaily's biased interviewer and softball questions makes the co-author of a pro-Starr book feel right at home.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/12/2000

The title of the article sure sounded promising: "Going After 'Truth At Any Cost.'" An "in-depth interview" with Susan Schmidt, co-author of the book that tells Ken Starr's side of the pursuit of President Clinton certainly sounds like a great idea in the proper hands.

But, unfortunately, we have to consider the source. WorldNetDaily's Geoff Metcalf provides Schmidt with an author's two best friends: a suck-up interviewer and softball questions.

Metcalf tosses cozy insider questions as if the two had rehearsed. The second question begins: "What happened on April 27, 1998?" as if it were Nov. 22, 1963. (Schmidt kindly informs us in her answer: "April 27 was the day Starr decided [indictments] wouldn't happen.") Other withering questions from Metcalf: "I thought I knew everything there was to know about what went on with the Ken Starr investigation ... but you have some surprises for us." "What about this confession to a presidential spiritual adviser? What was that?"

Metcalf also attacks deputy attorney general Eric Holder without any prompting at all from Schmidt. He starts by saying he plans to "throw some names" at Schmidt, the first being Holder. That brought this exchange:

    Schmidt: Very interesting guy. Deupty attorney general --

    Metcalf: Dirt bag.

    Schmidt: Well, he is a 'finesser' ...

This leads into some dishing about Holder, with Metcalf trying to make it sound much worse than Schmidt is. "Holder was stroking Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, telling her stuff that flat-out wasn't true about Starr," Metcalf asserts. (Remember, this is your interviewer saying this.) Schmidt responds with an anecdote that concludes: "What Holder was doing was making Starr think he didn't want to do an investigation (of leaks from Starr's office), but then offering to do one with the judge if he could be in control of it." Not exactly a "flat-out" lie.

Schmidt then moves on to a meeting Starr attended with Attorney General Janet Reno, at which point Metcalf interjects, "That will ruin a day." Was it Metcalf's plan to be as hateful as possible in order to make Schmidt look reasonable by comparison?

There are some genuinely interesting questions Metcalf could have asked, of course. Here are some of them:

-- As one of the reporters on the investigation for the Washington Post, what was your relationship with Starr and his associates? How many stories did you write that used Starr's office as unnamed sources?

-- Do you believe that if you did not cooperate with Starr's office by printing the tips he handed out that your working relationship with Starr would have been harmed -- that is, the possibility of being cut off from future scoops from Starr?

-- Columnist Lars-Erik Nelson reports that Steven Brill, editor of Brill's Content magazine, says your entire book is a violation of the federal rule against release of grand jury information because the perjury case against Clinton, according to Ray, is still a live one. Do you agree with this assessment?

-- When Ken Starr replied to Judge Norma Holloway Johnson's finding that he had illegally leaked information from the Grand Jury covered under rule 6e, he justified his contacts with members of the press by claiming that those reporters with whom he dealt were acting as "informants" for Starr's office. Were you included in the list of "informants" whose names were whited-out on the copy released to the public?

-- Gene Lyons (co-author of "The Hunting of the President," another take on the Clinton-Starr wars that WorldNetDaily is trying to ignore) accuses you of lifting a story verbatim from the Washington Times in which Lyons allegedly spread rumors originated by former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal about a supposed extramarital affair Starr was having to James Carville, a rumor which Lyons debunked on TV in 1998. Will you be correcting this in future editions of your book?

And this question came up after the WorldNetDaily interview appeared, but it's still worth noting should Metcalf suddenly develop a sense of journalistic fairness and do a follow-up:

-- In the book, you mention a former judge named Bill Watt, who you say pleaded guilty to a Whitewater-related crime when in fact he was never charged with anything and was actually granted immunity by Starr. Will you be correcting this in future editions of your book?

Yes, there is so much of value that could have been asked. But, again, we must consider the source -- where there are no tough questions for conservatives and those who make them look good.

(P.S. A shout-out to the posters at Salon's Table Talk, whose thread on Schmidt's book aided in research for this article.)

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