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The intern strikes back
June 2, 2004 12:41 PM   Subscribe

The intern accused of having an affair with Kerry does some investigative reporting of her own.

And so my education had taken me pretty much as far as it could. I started out as an ambitious young woman inspired by politics and the media. I’ve ended up disenchanted with both. If I had been an ambitious young man, this story would not have happened. I’m never going to know exactly what happened, but that matters less to me now. I lost a good friend and learned a few lessons. I am struck by the pitiful state of political reporting, which is dominated by the unholy alliance of opposition research and its latest tool, the Internet. Even the Wall Street Journal’s Website ran Drudge’s story, with only a brief disclaimer that his stories weren’t always accurate.

It was important for me to set the record straight. I don’t mean to dredge up old news by writing this, and I’m not trying to create any now, though I’m not unaware of the irony that I am adding to the ink spilled on this story. I don’t intend to discuss it again in public either. But for me, this painful experience will be hard to forget. It may be only a minor footnote to the campaign, but it has changed my life completely.

posted by psmealey (36 comments total)

 
It's an interesting article. Poirier refused to simply walk away - she wanted to know who'd done this and why. In this day and media age, it's not surprising that utter bullshit (like this story) ends up being reported as genuine news, but seldom do we get the visibility into the chain of events and associations that leads to it.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:01 PM on June 2, 2004


Good for her for standing up for herself, and a good read.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 1:02 PM on June 2, 2004


That's a really fascinating article. Great post.
posted by josh at 1:21 PM on June 2, 2004


and, let's be honest, she's a hot blonde.



frankly, i can see how it looked bad for kerry. i'm also extremely impressed by the lengths she went through to find out how this story started. good for her!
posted by taumeson at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2004


Good stuff. Thanks much, ps.
posted by blueshammer at 1:32 PM on June 2, 2004


Reading this I was struck by how much power has been given to so few, at least as far as news goes, and how little the idea of fact-checking seems to matter. When you have guys like Jayson Blair making stories up and publishing them without meaningful review and major (and respected) news channels like the WSJ passing on Drudge's effluvia like it was manna from heaven you know something is wrong.

I give Alexandra Polier kudos for hanging tough and not folding under what had to be enormous pressure and also her family for doing the same (note her Republican father's actions).

And for the record, Cam Barrett explains his role in all of this here.
posted by tommasz at 1:33 PM on June 2, 2004


I love the Brit reporter: "You ambushed me!" HA!
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:37 PM on June 2, 2004


I liked the bit of the tabloid reporter who used a small child to call Polier, in order to decrease the chances she'd hang up.
classic streetsmart reporting at work

also, I feel for Polier, burned by a friend -- that must hurt. but I still can't believe that a Columbia J-School grad could possibly think that silence was a viable strategy to make the story die quickly.
I mean, after a "Kerry-intern" item ends up on Drudge? Silence???
posted by matteo at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2004


dude! she is hott.

i'm missing the point again!

wicked frisky!
posted by glenwood at 1:45 PM on June 2, 2004


"In this day and media age, it's not surprising that utter bullshit ends up being reported as genuine news"

I think the real problem is that most Americans don't care about making a distinction between the two. These days the news has to entertain us or engage us viscerally. These goals trump fair and balanced reporting every single time when it comes to media success. At least where market concerns are of any value.

News is hard. We prefer stories.

This is the new America where Bush tactics win hands down. It's better to *sound* good than to be right.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:50 PM on June 2, 2004


I bet she gets audited this year too. I'm just sayin' is all.
posted by stet at 1:56 PM on June 2, 2004


My only quibble is that I disagree that she'll be tied to a sex scandal for the rest of her life. It will be mentioned in any bio, sure. But she's a good writer and a person of integrity, and to be honest, I'm interested to see what she has to say on other subjects.

And it's much better than that ridiculous Naomi Wolfe confessional that the same magazine published recently.
posted by bingo at 2:09 PM on June 2, 2004


Good reporting on her part. I hope somebody gives her a job in journalism.
posted by theora55 at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2004


mmm...Hot...Smart....

What was Kerry thinking to pass on that?
posted by prodigalsun at 2:33 PM on June 2, 2004


Rick Davis, the manager of Senator John McCain’s 2000 campaign, remembers well from his time fielding rumors that McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock. In fact, McCain had adopted a Bangladeshi baby.

we get the media we deserve, true or false? i.e., who gives a shit about whether John McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock? lots of people, that's who.

that was a good read, but damn depressing. Dean's campaign manager "rushing to Drudge every fifteen minutes" and Wesley Clark "reacting to the latest issue of The National Enquirer"? no wonder we're all so disaffected.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:34 PM on June 2, 2004


just to balance out the she's a hottie comments, Yaron isn't bad either.
engrossing story psmealey, thanks.
posted by dabitch at 2:39 PM on June 2, 2004


Yaron isn't bad either.


Yeah, I mean, what was Kerry thinking passing on him, too?

I can see it now.

"Alex, I've been accused of being an elitest, and that I resemble a frenchman. So it might not come as a complete shock that one of my favorite phrases is Menage a Trois. So come on, whadda you and Yaron say?
posted by prodigalsun at 3:00 PM on June 2, 2004


Was Monica "hot" by the way? I don't judge my own gender that way.
posted by dabitch at 3:12 PM on June 2, 2004


Oh my god she's hot.
posted by delmoi at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2004


I always thought Monica was "hot", but too young for me. Considering Clinton is 10 years older than me, it makes one stop and think.
posted by tommasz at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2004


Good reporting on her part. I hope somebody gives her a job in journalism.

Err... she worked for the AP

Was Monica "hot" by the way? I don't judge my own gender that way.

Well, she was hot for a fat person.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2004


"she said I looked like Monica and had poor taste in movies, and compared me to Paris Hilton. I wept. "

Not the most astute part of this article.

Yes, this was an awful thing to have happened to any person. And, yes, good for her for telling her side of the story. But I don't completely trust her motives here. I get the feeling she's selling something else. I also get that feeling from the pictures she's allowing to be published alongside this article.

No, no, I don't mean she's selling it to Kerry, or any other politician for that matter (what was that chick's name that got fired recently?). More like some sort of media/book-type deal, though I can't imagine what form it would take.
posted by vignettist at 4:02 PM on June 2, 2004


It must be remembered that this is not the first time that Drudge had been the messenger for a planted smear.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:19 PM on June 2, 2004


Mickey Kaus is still trolling for dirty bits.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:50 PM on June 2, 2004


vignettist, the pictures give you that feeling why? Because she's beautiful?

She's wearing a classy black something-or-other, not a nasty, low-cut something-or-other. Brittany Spears is "selling something else." Poirier is just plain-old gorgeous, but hella-classy.

What would you propose instead?
posted by jeremy at 6:22 PM on June 2, 2004


KirkJobSluder--Drudge won that case and Blumenthal had to pay his legal fees.

Scariest part of the article:

More alarmingly, my Hotmail account had been broken into, and I couldn’t access my e-mail. Random people in my in-box whom I hadn’t spoken to in months suddenly started getting calls from reporters. My father called to tell me someone had tried the same thing with his account, but that his security software had intercepted them and tracked them back to a rogue computer address in Washington, D.C. When I finally got back into my account, assuming the hacker was a Republican, I changed my password to “Bushsucksdick.”

I wouldn't put it past some reporters to hire a hacker.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:29 PM on June 2, 2004


Asparagirl: Drudge won that case and Blumenthal had to pay his legal fees.

Brill's Content had an interesting analysis of this whole thing, which makes it a shame that such a great publication that repeatedly examined the stories behind the stories folded.

It is really not correct to say that Drudge "won" in the terms that he was found innocent of defamation. He "won" in the sense that he was given an unliminted legal warchest by a conservative think-tank, and the Blumenthals found themselves facing a legal battle that would drive them bankrupt, that would involve a fishing expedition through Washington DC looking for the anonymous source who planted the rumor.

In addition, Drudge's defense was not that the story was true, but that he was simply reporting on the rumor given to him by his anonymous source. He did publish a quick retraction of the original story. So basically the arguments in the case came down to Druge claming that he was an unwitting tool if any defmation happened, and the Blumethal's arguing that Drudge was a willing tool of an organized attack on the Clinton administration through Clinton's associates. Drudge argued that his not-quite-quick retraction satisfied his legal obligations, and attributing the rumor to a source absolved him of responsibility. The Blumenthals argued that he should have known better and owed them a more explicit apology.

Throughout the case, both sides were playing dirty pool. Unfortunately, the legal counsel for the Blumenthal's played a bit dirtier and got caught, leading to a pretty paltry judgement about legal fees (2,500, less than a drunk driving violation in my city).

The bottom line is, most people on both sides agreed that Drudge had been played into publishing an unsubstantiated and underhanded rumor that probably would have been libel if Drudge had been an idiot and stood by the story. Blumenthal made a tactical error that Polier managed to duck with grace. Drudge was established as an untouchable tool for mudslinging campaigns that has proven useful on a few occasions now. At any rate, any time I see a big Drudge story with an anonymous source I can't help but ask who is feeding it to him and why?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2004


I'm glad she had the resources and the ability to research and rebut the story. Without understanding British law, or American standards of slander...were it at all feasible, I think she should sue the pants off everyone involved.
posted by dejah420 at 7:42 PM on June 2, 2004


ditto dejah420. I don't know about suing, but it would be a cool trend if reporters were confronted more often about their mistakes like these ones apparently were. I especially liked the part towards the end where she met the reporter who claimed she looked like Monica sight unseen.
posted by MetalDog at 7:57 PM on June 2, 2004


MetalDog: I thought that was one of the good things as well, discovering who was willing to talk and admit to making a mistake vs. who was hiding behind receptionists and answering machines.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:36 PM on June 2, 2004


I think the real problem is that most Americans don't care about making a distinction between the two.

Exactly. That's why the favorite American TV shows are a pure fantasy trip but called "reality TV."

it would be a cool trend if reporters were confronted more often about their mistakes like these ones apparently were.

Amen. It's time Judith Miller had her sorry ass fired and put in stocks. And that would only be a small beginning. Mickey and Sludge and Rush would get sent to Gitmo fist class (not a typo) for their sorry lies, no trial, no trace.
posted by nofundy at 5:41 AM on June 3, 2004


vignettist, the pictures give you that feeling why? Because she's beautiful?

they looked like book jacket pics, not like random snapshots. I found her constant "I didn't want to talk about this" a little disingenuous, myself, but really it would be hard to write anything about the incident without it coming across that way. If this is all she does, and she moves on to other things, she could be a well respected journalist, though, so maybe she just felt she needed to address it at some point. Does seem odd to not say anything when it's a story, and then say something when most of us have totally forgotten about it (I'm not sure I could ever have given you her name - it didn't seem like that massive a story for me, though I have been under a rock (the grad school rock) for much of spring...)
posted by mdn at 7:31 AM on June 3, 2004


i like the pic of alex because she in a black cocktail dress withthe blon hair and she look she would be pretty with senter kerry. in the behind
posted by dfowler at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2004


Coming back to this late, sorry. Pesky work projects.

The message that I took from the article was that she wants to be taken seriously as an educated and accomplished professional. But the pictures tell a different story.

If I am to believe that someone wants to be seen and judged as a professional ('stay the hell out of my private life and don't make up stories about it'), then I would like to see them present themselves in more professional garb.
posted by vignettist at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2004


"But the pictures tell a different story"

Did I miss something? Two photos - one on the first page of the story, the other of her and her boyfriend. The one with her in the white jacket on the index page is from the same shoot as the black tank top (you can tell from the makeup and hair - maybe as a chick I just notice these things) - which is pretty much what you can find many women wearing to work these days, though usually with a jacket on. No cleavage showing. Go to your nearest Talbots and you can find the same conservative office gear. Skirts above the knee are now acceptable too - it doesn't mean anything.

Here's the deal - this story was going to be written eventually, with or without Poirier's help. As a journalist it would have been foolish for her not to cover her own story - it was newsworthy, and as a career move it gets her back into the biz rather than letting herself become just another interview subject for some other reporter. And yes, she needed photos - if you read the article she discusses reporters digging up old photos of her from yearbooks - and offering her friends huge sums for casual photos of her. With her writing up the story other news organizations were going to want to run a photo - and at least this way she could have some control over what image they'd use. Frankly I think that was a good idea, seeing how little control she could have of any of the other events.

As to why she kept quiet - well, she'd prepared to be a journalist - not the subject of the news. Completely different thing. And she was in a place where it wasn't so easy to pick up the phone and confer with more people who could have helped her make such decisions. Perhaps if she had been in the US at the time she would have reported her own story. Meanwhile yes, this will stick with her. It's going to be in her obituary file - though how prominent will depend on what other work she does in the meantime. But it's already in her file.

Here's some other nitterings on the subject:
New Republic's Noam Schieber
Slate's kausfiles (scroll down to June 1)

Some of these questions are understandable. Frankly I don't have a problem with her actions - it was a good career move for her - she needed to make some kind of public statement about it before she could get back to work. And a book deal? I don't think there's enough material in just this story. And the questions on why she got a call back so quickly from Kerry? Hey, if you don't realize that cute chicks who dig politics (it's amazing how many people get wildly excited over political work, but there are many) are really popular, then you haven't been to any political events. And no, they all aren't sleeping with politicians, some of them just really like the whole process. (I can't be the only one who knows political junkies.) If you think about it we don't have too many plain looking people on television news - attractiveness can open doors. Not nice, but it works. And it works in political circles as well.
posted by batgrlHG at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2004


She is, indeed, beautiful and she should find herself with a good job after having gone through all this effort to set the record straight.

Reward good, condemn evil. Its really not that hard, is it?
posted by fenriq at 4:28 PM on June 3, 2004


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