by Scoobie Davis
Exclusive: Drudge Confronted About His Journalistic Misconduct
Last night I got home from a shoot and heard Drudge gloat on his radio show about the trouble that Howell Raines and The New York Times are experiencing over former reporter Jayson Blair's journalistic misconduct. It was bad enough last Sunday when the gang at Fox News Sunday was unctuously discussing the matter (the participants included Paul Gigot and Ceci Connolly). I thought about Drudge: “Look who’s talking?” (Click here for my previous discussion with Drudge regarding his fast and loose approach to the truth).
So I called up and confronted Drudge about his own journalistic misconduct (this time I posed as “Joseph”).
DRUDGE: Line two, Joseph in Los Angeles, you’re on the air with Drudge.
SCOOBIE: Yo, Matt. I gotta tell you, I’m really amused by your talk regarding the journalistic misconduct at the New York Times. It seems like there are some stones being thrown from some glass houses there.
DRUDGE: You know, why not? Why not? I can throw just as many stones as they can. I mean, they’re sitting there mocking me. Why can’t I mock them?
SCOOBIE: Because you deserve to be mocked, considering--
DRUDGE: Okay, they’re the holy ones, I mean, I’m not sitting here [unintelligible] Have you found my fabricated stories yet, sir?
SCOOBIE: How about the fact that you didn’t divulge who gave you the misinformation regarding Sidney Blumenthal’s nonexistent domestic abuse? How about your not retracting the false report you put out that Enron’s Ken Lay slept over at the Clinton White House. That’s the nature of journalism and you didn’t abide by journalistic—
DRUDGE: The nature of journalism is to reveal your sources on stories, sir?
SCOOBIE: If they gave you--
DRUDGE: Joseph, that’s a direct question--
SCOOBIE: --misinformation it is your obligation to divulge who that is and to report people who give misinformation. That--
DRUDGE: Sir, Joseph, when have you ever in a bad story heard a news outlet reveal their source?
SCOOBIE: If it’s a libelous one, they’re obligated to. Sir, are you familiar with the journalistic--
DRUDGE: Joseph, You’re jumping all over the place. I’m asking you a direct question. When have you ever heard of a news outlet revealing a source—a confidential source—even for a bad story?
SCOOBIE: I have never heard of a story that was so egregiously libelous as yours. Give me a--
DRUDGE: I’m the biggest sinner of the bunch. I’m the one who is going to be put up on that journalistic cross and you’re going to put a crown on my head and you’re just going to let me stand up there and suffer. Is that right, sir?
SCOOBIE: I don’t want you to suffer. I just want you to tell the truth and retract stories that are false and to expose people who lie to you—and who, in effect, lie to the American people because you publish their allegations on your web site.
DRUDGE: And would you also apply that to other media? Do you want to know if a story has gone bad, you want CNN to reveal their source? You want the LA Times to reveal their source? You want all these outlets to reveal their sources on stories that you deem that have gone bad?
SCOOBIE: Absolutely. And they’re morally obligated to. The code of journalistic ethics indicates that you should do that.
[DRUDGE MUTES SCOOBIE—A FAVORITE TACTIC OF TALK RADIO HOSTS]
DRUDGE: Code of journalistic ethics. Oh my. Who is writing that code, sir, you?
[NOTE: Though I was muted, I was still on the line and I answered that the code was developed by the Society of Professional Journalists but since I was muted, there was, of course, only a second of dead air.]
DRUDGE: This is one of the biggest patronizers yet and I am his obsession. He’s knowing every story I’m writing—let alone stories I’m not writing. If you could see the stories I haven’t published, sir. If you could see the innuendo, the rumor, and the gossip that I’m not conveying—which I have ever right to as a citizen if I have sources. The First Amendment protects even falsehoods—as we see in the main press almost hourly—no, minutely. No, I’m the biggest sinner. If you noticed he is following the details of my reporting very closely for someone who is not taking me seriously. Here I’ve written thousands of stories and yeah I’ve made some mistakes and I’ve owned up to it. But as far as that one story with Sidney Blumenthal, sir, he ended up paying my side because he didn’t want to go into further discovery. And I knew he was in the wrong and I let him settle. Otherwise, I would have hung him out to dry and collected all of his advance for his Clinton Wars.
[DRUDGE GOES TO STATION BREAK]
REALITY: Blumenthal dropped the case because a group of wingnuts such as David Horowitz paid for Drudge’s legal fees while Blumenthal had to pay lawyers out of his own pocket. Considering that Drudge was the defendant in this libel suit he should be the one who knows that the First Amendment doesn’t protect libel. To clarify a point I was making, a journalist is not obligated to keep a source confidential if that source lies; in fact, it is the ethical obligation of a journalist to not only retract a false story based on a source’s perfidy but to name the source. I’m not the first person to make this observation. Drudge’s protection of a dishonest source puts him at odds with established journalistic practice and common decency.