Truthout “Trying to Mitigate Hysteria” Over Leopold Stories, Tactics

I spoke with Truthout editor Marc Ash this afternoon. His correspondent Jason Leopold wrote a number of stories involving Karl Rove’s legal worries — that the White House adviser had been indicted, and had informed the president of his pending resignation — which have become increasingly difficult to reconcile with accounts in mainstream papers that Rove will not be indicted in the Plame affair.

Most recently, Leopold’s reporting methods have been called into question by the Washington Post, which yesterday ran a piece questioning whether he had impersonated another journalist while covering Rove’s troubles.

“We’re suffering from hysteria here,” Ash said of the reaction to the mainstream press accounts which appear to contradict Leopold’s reporting. “And I don’t find that attractive and I don’t find it in the best interests of our readers. We are expressly endeavoring to mitigate hysteria,” said Ash.

As part of that effort, last Friday Ash posted a statement to Truthout.org. “Obviously there is a major contradiction between our version of the story and what was reported” by other outlets, Ash wrote. Therefore, Truthout is “going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time. We defer instead to the nation’s leading publications.”

Some might think that was a retraction — but they would be wrong. Just two paragraphs later, Ash wrote, “There is no indication that Mr. Leopold acted unethically. . . we stand firmly behind Jason Leopold.”

So does Truthout stand behind Leopold’s reporting — or does it “defer. . . to the nation’s leading publications”?

Ash doesn’t seem to think it’s an either/or proposition. “There is a perception here that Jason misreported facts, didn’t report facts accurately, wasn’t candid with his editors. None of that is true,” he told me. Right now, the publication is “reviewing all our sources. . . and trying to confirm, confirm, confirm.”But Leopold’s accuracy is just one issue Ash has to address. His ethics, it appears, are another: in the Washington Post Sunday, freelancer Joe Luria reported an incident in which Leopold appears to have posed as Luria — or as “Joel Luria,” with a telephone number with one digit different from Joe’s — when calling a Justice Department spokesman.

That story “originated with Mark Corallo,” Ash said. “Corallo seems to think that Jason Leopold misrepresented himself as Joe Luria. . . as an attempt to get Corallo on the telephone.”

Is it true? “I haven’t gotten anything to back that up,” Ash told me.

The editor promised a fuller reconciliation of Leopold’s stories by 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday.

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