Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Jason Leopold responds

Jason Leopold didn't like my statements calling him a "fabulist", and supposedly accusing him of fabricating stories. (I merely meant to say his stories were wildly wrong and irresponsible, not that he was making stuff up.) Leopold sent me a couple of e-mails over the weekend threatening legal action. Here are some excerpts.

"It has come to my attention that you published comments accusing me of fabricating stories and of being a fabulist, which is defamatory and libelous on its face. . . However, I imagine that once I take action agains you, should have no problem rounding up these people and the evidence to support your libelous and defamatory commentary. . . But I take your written claims against me very seriously, and I intend to pursue a civil action against you unless you either provide hard documented proof to back up your published allegations that I am a "fabulist". or you either immediately retract your statements in writing or send me an apology letter."

Here's my response. I have no evidence to prove that Jason Leopold has deliberately fabricated any stories. I retract any previous statement that he has deliberately published any falsehoods, or that implication in the use of the word "fabulist." Apologies, Jason. I won't publish such uncorroborated statements about you again.

As far as the word "fabulist" goes, one of its dictionary meanings is "liar." Leopold has admitted to lying in the pursuit of stories, and thinks it's just fine. (See below) Since Leopold hates being called a fabulist, I'll just say he's an admitted liar and leave it at that.

What do we know about Jason Leopold? We know that Jason Leopold has a history of writing unproven stories. This includes his Salon piece charging among other things that former Enron executive Thomas White had sent an e-mail ordering Enron losses to be covered up. Salon said it removed the story because it could not confirm the e-mail's existence.

Salon's statement on removing Leopold's story also mentioned his plagiarism of the Financial Times: "Whatever its basis, this sort of plagiarism is a serious breach of journalistic trust, and caused us to go back over every detail and aspect of the original article. Our review led us to take this latest step."

And there is his recent unproven "scoop" that Karl Rove has been indicted, which months after the fact has not been substantiated. Add to that the strange story of his interactions with Joe Lauria.

"Most mainstream news organizations have dismissed the Leopold story as egregiously wrong. But even if he had gotten it right and scooped the world on a major story, his methods would still raise a huge question: What value does journalism have if it exposes unethical behavior unethically? Leopold seems to assume, as does much of the public, that all journalists practice deception to land a story. But that's not true. I know dozens of reporters, but Leopold is only the second one I've known (the first did it privately) to admit to doing something illegal or unethical on the job."

If Leopold's stories about White and Rove turn out to be true after all, he'd redeem himself as an accurate journalist. I'm not holding my breath. Until then, we can just chalk up Jason Leopold as an admitted liar and felon who writes sensational stories that don't deliver what they claim to. Jason Leopold is a pathetic caricature of a journalist best heeded as an example of what not to do.

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