Was the Report on Rudy's Mistress Security Squad a 'Dirty Trick'?

In Monday’s Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz is noting how Rudy Giuliani uses the "liberal media" as a foil in his campaign, and also offers the latest in a trend of adding prominence to his old WashPost colleagues at The Politico website for their scoop on Giuliani’s use of public money (for his security detail) for his messy private life (visits to his mistress in the Hamptons). Giuliani called the story "totally false," five years old, and a "debate-day dirty trick."

Kurtz did not ask about that "liberal media" and their double standard: that the public moneys wasted on enabling adultery was always a distasteful right-wing trash-for-cash story when the Clintons were in the spotlight (Troopergate, anyone?), and that a five-year-old Clinton adultery story was always something the liberal media would regard as news no one needed to read. Kurtz went to his long-time Post colleague John F. Harris for a rebuttal:

[Politico] Editor in Chief John Harris says the Giuliani camp has not challenged the facts in reporter Ben Smith's story. "No way this was a hit job," he says. "We took our reporting to them a couple of days in advance. We told them what our reporting had found and asked for explanations. They simply didn't take advantage of that opportunity."

Any suggestion that the story was timed for the debate, Harris says, is "preposterous," adding that no rival campaign was involved.

Smith, a former New York Daily News reporter, had requested the city documents in June under the Freedom of Information Act. Giuliani's spokeswoman had declined to comment, although one aide spoke on a not-for-attribution basis. After the story was published, Giuliani said that he had been under 24-hour police guard because of threats, that he had always followed the same procedure and that agencies such as the Loft Board -- which were utilized for speedier payment -- were reimbursed by the police department.

Now let's apply the skeptical political reporter's judgment back on the Politico. When you've been building a sex-and-security story since June and you launch it on the morning before the most watched primary presidential debate ever, how many people will find it "preposterous" that you timed it for maximum political and publicity impact?

It's also ridiculous to say your timing wasn't politically motivated because "no rival campaign was involved." A liberal media outlet can be aggressively anti-Republican without needing assistance from a rival campaign. This is especially true of John Harris. If we're going to look at digging up five-year-old stories, how about this beaut from 2002, with Harris mourning how Hillary still has enemies?

Hillary the victim. If it only weren’t for all those awful conservatives irrationally opposing her noble ideals. "The Liberation of Hillary," celebrated the cover of Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine for a story by former Post White House reporter John Harris, who is now on leave at the moderately liberal Brookings Institution to write a book about the Clinton presidency.

Inside, over a two-page bleed-out photo of Senator Clinton crouching down to pose for a photo with a little girl: "Hillary's Big Adventure." The subhead set up the story’s premise of Hillary as the victim of the vast right-wing conspiracy: "A supportive spouse, surprisingly accepting colleagues, and a mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her."

The "they" is conservatives. It certainly isn't the allegedly objective John Harris.

Washington Post Politico Ben Smith
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