Author of NYT tabloid story on Clintons has checkered record

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Patrick Healy, the author of a New York Times article purporting to examine the married life of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton, wondered in a 2004 report whether Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry (MA), was "a bit kooky" and openly questioned "what kind of marriage the Kerrys have" while filing other erroneous stories on the Democratic nominee that fueled Republican attacks. By contrast, Healy has let another prominent New Yorker and possible presidential contender, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, escape similar personal probing in three recent stories.

Patrick Healy, the author of a front-page, above-the-fold May 23 New York Times article purporting to examine the married life of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and former President Bill Clinton, wondered in a 2004 report in The Boston Globe whether Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry (MA), was "a bit kooky" and openly questioned "what kind of marriage the Kerrys have" while filing other erroneous stories on the Democratic nominee that fueled Republican attacks. By contrast, Healy has let another prominent New Yorker and possible presidential contender, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, escape similar personal probing in three recent stories.

Healy, in his article, interviewed "some 50 people," conducted "a review of their [the Clintons'] respective activities," and revived unsubstantiated rumors of an affair between Bill Clinton and a Canadian politician -- rumors that Healy himself appeared to acknowledge are better suited to "the gossip pages." However, Healy has not turned a critical eye on the marriages of Republican presidential hopefuls, or explored how the spouses of Republican candidates may affect their political future. Since April, Healy has written three articles on Giuliani. While two of the articles made mention of the former mayor's divorces, none delved into the matter in any detail, much less subjecting Giuliani to the same level of scrutiny as the Clintons' marriage received in Healy's May 23 article.

In his report on the Clintons, Healy catalogued the number of days the Clinton's have spent together over the past 17 months:

Since the start of 2005, the Clintons have been together about 14 days a month on average, according to aides who reviewed the couple's schedules. Sometimes it is a full day of relaxing at home in Chappaqua; sometimes it is meeting up late at night. At their busiest, they saw each other on a single day, Valentine's Day, in February 2005 -- a month when each was traveling a great deal. Last August, they saw each other at some point on 24 out of 31 days. Out of the last 73 weekends, they spent 51 together. The aides declined to provide the Clintons' private schedule.

Healy also cited the concerns of "[s]everal prominent New York Democrats" over a "tabloid photograph showing Mr. Clinton leaving B.L.T. Steak in Midtown Manhattan late one night after dining with a group that included Belinda Stronach, a Canadian politician." According to Healy: "The two were among roughly a dozen people at a dinner, but it still was enough to fuel coverage in the gossip pages" ... and coverage in a front-page story in The New York Times.

By contrast, in an April 7 Times article titled, "Decided or Not, Giuliani Charts a Path to 2008," Healy simply quoted a Giuliani spokeswoman dismissing concerns over the former mayor's failed marriages:

Sunny Mindel, Mr. Giuliani's spokeswoman, said media scrutiny would not deter him from running.

''Anybody who runs for president knows and understands that if they make that decision, the clock in terms of the media goes back to square one,'' Ms. Mindel said.

Asked why Mr. Giuliani, now 61 and out of office, would put himself in a position to have to answer questions about his two failed marriages or the mob ties in his family, Ms. Mindel countered: ''Does the public have the patience to even go through that again?''

In an April 12 Times article on the documentary Giuliani Time, which offers a critical look at Giuliani's political career, Healy quoted New York political consultant George Artz saying: "In the second term he was fighting with a lot of people, he had tense relationships, his marriage was falling apart, nothing was going right, and he was headed for political oblivion when 9/11 happened." Healy omitted any mention of the fact that, while Mr. Giuliani's "marriage was falling apart," he was reportedly conducting an extramarital affair. Healy extended no similar courtesy to the Clintons in his May 23 article. Further, he made no mention of the details of Giuliani's first marriage. In an April 25, 2003, article on Giuliani's third marriage, the Associated Press reported: "Giuliani's first marriage to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi, lasted about 14 years. It was annulled by the Catholic Church because the couple had not obtained a church dispensation required when second cousins marry."

As recently as May 19, in an article on Giuliani's position on same-sex marriage, Healy wrote that Giuliani "declared heterosexual marriage to be 'inviolate' on Thursday as he helped raise money for a former leader of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, who is in a tough fight to become lieutenant governor of Georgia." Healy simply quoted Giuliani saying: "I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, that it should remain that way, it should remain that way inviolate, and everything should be done to make sure that that's the case." Healy made no reference to Giuliani's two divorces and three marriages, or to his extramarital affair.

Additionally, Healy's past coverage of 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was marred by inaccurate and incomplete reporting that provided Republicans and conservatives ammunition for attacks on Kerry's campaign. Healy covered Kerry's campaign in 2004 for The Boston Globe.

In a December 23, 2003, Globe article, Healy wrote that Kerry, while visiting a construction site in Iowa, "declined to put a plastic hard hat on his carefully coiffed hair (a camera crew was taping him for a commercial), but he did drop the perfect elocution he honed at prep school, Yale, and during 19 years in the US Senate." According to Nexis, however, a correction to the article was issued the following day, which read: "Because of a reporting error, a story yesterday about Senator John F. Kerry's 24-hour bus tour in Iowa incorrectly said he was reluctant to use a plastic hard hat at a construction site in Davenport because it might mess his hair. Kerry wore the hard hat at one point during his visit to the site."

Also, as the weblog Daily Howler noted, Healy misquoted Kerry from an appearance at a fundraiser in Florida in March 2004 -- and Healy's misquote was the genesis of a widespread Republican smear against Kerry. In a March 9, 2004, Globe article, Healy wrote:

Yesterday morning, in the first Kerry fund-raiser opened to the media, at a seashore hotel in Hollywood, Kerry told about 50 Florida donors over coffee and muffins that their anger at Bush was shared not only by Americans but by political leaders abroad.

"I've met foreign leaders, who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," Kerry said. He did not identify the leaders in question, nor would campaign spokesman David Wade, and the senator's comment was a striking statement given that Kerry, a longtime foreign policy specialist in the Senate, has held to the belief that partisan politics should "stop at the water's edge."

However, Kerry denied that he ever said "foreign leaders," and the Globe later posted a correction. Moreover, the March 15, 2004, edition of CNN's Live Today featured video of Kerry clarifying his remarks, saying that he never said he met with foreign leaders:

KERRY: With respect to the question you've asked about foreign leaders, I've met with foreign leaders, I never said that. What I said was that I have heard from people who are leaders elsewhere in the world who don't appreciate the Bush administration approach and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States.

But, as Healy noted later in his March 9 article, Kerry's misreported comments had already been incorporated into a Republican National Committee video lampooning Kerry:

The Republican National Committee yesterday assailed Kerry's tendency to cite unnamed foreign leaders criticizing Bush, dubbing Kerry an Austin Powers-esque "international man of mystery" and suggesting that North Korea leader Kim Jong Il -- whose state-run radio has been touting Kerry recently -- was one of the leaders cited by Kerry.

The Washington Times editorial page seized on the misquote, and published a series of investigative articles and editorials "debunking" Kerry's alleged claim. According to a March 16 Washington Times editorial:

There is some doubt that Mr. Kerry actually had those conversations, a question raised on these pages last Wednesday. Since the beginning of last year, according to an exhaustive analysis of Mr. Kerry's travel records by this newspaper on Friday, Mr. Kerry has made no official overseas trips and had only one chance to meet with foreign leaders within the United States. Our Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan determined that Mr. Kerry's last official visit abroad was in the first part of 2002, when he traveled to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the United Kingdom. Mr. Kerry's aides declined to discuss which foreign leaders he had met or even to hint at how many were supporting him.

[...]

Instead of changing the subject, Mr. Kerry seems to be trying to change the record. In yesterday's editions of the New York Times, Mr. Kerry said, "I think the quote ... was that I 'heard from,' that's the direct quote. I've likewise had meetings. I said I've heard from, that was what I believe I said."

As the New York Times pointed out, however, what Mr. Kerry actually said at the fund-raiser was, "I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, 'you gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that."

The editorial was referring to a March 15 New York Times article that repeated Healy's misquotation of Kerry, citing "a reporter who attended the session." As the Daily Howler noted, "Healy was the only scribe present when Kerry spoke at a Florida fund-raiser."

Also, the Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily weblog noted on May 13, 2004, that Healy, in a May 13 Globe article, mischaracterized Kerry's criticism of the Bush administration and left the impression that Kerry said that the administration had "failed" in its handling of the Iraq war. According to CJR Daily:

A little precision from the press corps can sometimes go a long way.

Yesterday John Kerry gave an interview with Associated Press Radio. Referring to the war in Iraq, the Massachusetts senator said, "This is not a success. Why should we reward more of the same?"

[...]

In a piece headed, "Kerry Says Bush Fails in Handling Iraq War," Healy wrote that Kerry "said the administration has failed and does not deserve a second term."

[...]

"Failure" is a strong word for the normally cautious Kerry. And there's no evidence in either story that Kerry ever used it.

[Associated Press reporter Mike] Glover's wording -- that Kerry called the Iraq war a failure -- suggests that Kerry sees the effort as irredeemable. Saying that something "is not a success" isn't the same thing, since it allows for the possibility that it could be a success at some point in the future.

Healy's characterization is better -- his interpretation that Kerry claimed "the administration has failed" leaves room for Kerry's obvious belief that a different administration could succeed. But Healy still elides the subtle but crucial distinction between calling the current Iraq policy a "failure" and the suggestion that success is still possible.

Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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