On Friday, Erik Wemple -- a blogger for the Washington Post -- announced that the “renowned investigative reporter” Michael Isikoff was leaving the “Peacock Network” that day because “it was increasingly clear" that the news division “was moving in directions in which there were going to be fewer opportunities for my work,” Isikoff told the New York Times.
After 33 years, NBC investigative reporter Lisa Myers left the network in January. In a statement later on Friday, Richard Esposito -- the senior executive producer of the shrinking NBC News investigative unit -- praised Isikoff by asserting:
Michael has done terrific work for NBC News on stories ranging from revealing which government official leaked the U.S. Stuxnet virus attack on Iran’s nuclear program to a groundbreaking examination of the Obama Administration drone strike program.
We’re grateful for all he’s done, and wish him the very best.
Isikoff replied that “I had a good ride at NBC, and I’m glad I did this. But it’s fair to say there was a mutual agreement that this was a situation that was no longer working out.”
The reporter had been with the left-wing television network since 2010. Before that, he spent more than a decade with the Newsweek magazine, a time when Isikoff unwittingly contributed to the rise of journalism on the Internet.
It's a rare thing when a liberal newsman makes history by not reporting a story, but Michael Isikoff – who is now departing NBC News -- did just that when he wrote an article regarding the affair between then-president Bill Clinton and a young intern named Monica Lewinsky in January of 1998, only to have it scuttled by his editors at Newsweek.
That turn of events gave Matt Drudge the opportunity to post a scoop on his little-known Drudge Report website that not only unveiled the scandal that almost ended Clinton's career, but also helped catapult online reporting into legitimate journalism since it broke what was later called “The Story of the Decade.”
When online news pioneer Matt Drudge learned of Isikoff's story and the magazine's reluctance to print it, he took advantage of the fact that he had no one to approve or deny his decision to post the information.
According to the Drudge Report Archives, his headline read: “NEWSWEEK KILLS STORY ON WHITE HOUSE INTERN ... BLOCKBUSTER REPORT: 23-YEAR-OLD FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN, SEX RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT.”
The article stated that the magazine “killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation.” Drudge revealed that Lewinsky was “sexually involved with the love of her life, the president of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House.”
She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office, where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference.
The young intern wrote long love letters to President Clinton, which she delivered through a delivery service. She was a frequent visitor at the White House after midnight.
“The relationship between the president and the young woman became strained,” Drudge noted, “when the president believed that the young woman was bragging about the affair to others.”
“The story's impending release caused blind chaos in media circles,” he added. TIME magazine "spent Saturday scrambling for its own version of the story."
Drudge also pointed out a bizarre twist in the situation:
Ironically, several years ago, it was Isikoff that found himself in a shouting match with editors who were refusing to publish even a portion of his meticulously researched investigative report that was to break Paula Jones.
Isikoff worked for the Washington Post at the time, and left shortly after the incident to [work] for the paper's sister magazine, Newsweek.
As NewsBusters has previously reported, Isikoff has promoted a liberal agenda at NBC News. Many remember the spring of 2005, when Isikoff and colleagues claimed soldiers had flushed a Koran in front of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. NBC later retracted the story.
In November of 2009, he led a charge by Newsweek to claim that the National Rifle Association was on the side of terrorists during a legislative battle to allow passengers aboard Amtrak to transport unloaded firearms in their checked luggage.
One year later, Isikoff claimed that a “secret fortune” was being poured into a network of outside political groups, with the primary organization being run by Republican strategist Karl Rove.
In his book Uncovering Clinton, Isikoff wrote of his discomfort at being at the center of the Lewinsky story, but "The best we can ever do is what I have tried to do here -- figure out, as best we can, what really happened and report it thoroughly, fairly, and accurately."