As Austin Powers would say, "it's a man, baby!"
A male health care worker from California outed himself to the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday as "Ellie Light," the pro-Obama letter writer who duped nearly 70 newspapers into publishing his letters.
The Plain Dealer's Stephen Koff has the story:
A man who identified himself as Winston Steward, 51, of Frazier Park, Calif., says he made up the name "Ellie Light" to protect himself from criticism and possible physical attacks, and used fake addresses across the country to get local newspapers to publish his letters.
"I am Winston Steward and have been sending the letters from Ellie Light," he told The Plain Dealer in an e-mail late Tuesday, following a phone interview in which he said the same. "I hope this ends any confusion and sets the record straight."
His e-mail address matched the address of the Ellie Light missives that were sent to newspapers to praise Obama and urged second-guessers to be patient as the president advances the Democratic agenda. The person identified as Ellie Light had been corresponding from that e-mail address to The Plain Dealer since last week, when the newspaper's Web site, cleveland.com, disclosed that someone using the name Ellie Light was duping newspapers nationwide.
Many newspapers will not publish letters to the editor unless they are from local residents, so the correspondence from "Light" used addresses from newspapers' own circulation areas. But news of Light's tactics left multiple newspapers embarrassed, with some apologizing to their readers. The Plain Dealer did not publish any letters from "Light."
News of the escapade also triggered suspicions in the blogosphere that Ellie Light was not a real name, and that the letter-writing campaign was directed from White House or the Democratic Party.
The man identifying himself as Steward scoffed at that, saying the letters were merely his way of speaking up for Obama when sensing that support for the Democratic president was waning. While a liberal, he said that too many people on the "ultra-left" are demanding ideological loyalty rather than seeking results.
The story took several twists this week, as The Plain Dealer and "Ellie Light" spoke first through e-mail and later via phone. At one point Tuesday, the person who had been using the name acknowledged it was fake -- but then said her real name was Barbara Brooks. The person spoke in a husky voice that could pass for either gender.
But public records, including those of marriages, property and professional licenses in California and Texas, and phone interviews eventually led to the identity of Steward. Those interviews included several with a woman in Texas who said she is the real Barbara Brooks -- records appear to confirm this -- and that she is married to Steward, who for now lives in their other home in California but plans to join her in their home near San Antonio.