Cranky Roger Stone was on Fox Business Monday still in a lather over Eliot Spitzer.
Fox was determined to bash its favorite john the night he debuted on CNN, so it gave Stone and his “Manhattan Madam” candidate for governor, Kristin Davis, a ten minute block of airtime to say whatever wild and crazy thing they could crank out. A legendary GOP dirty trickster, Stone has been advising both Davis and Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate.
Fox decided to counter Spitzer — whose show was blasted by Stone and everyone else on the “Follow the Money” panel — by featuring convicted felon Davis and her manager Stone, who said on NY1 this week that she would make “a great governor.”
Even as this comedy aired, down in Dallas, Fox had a perfectly legitimate journalist who actually knew something about Spitzer sitting in their studio, waiting for an interview that never occurred.
Peter Elkind, a Fortune magazine editor at large and author of Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, says he was told that the show “would start” with an interview with him “about my book” and the Alex Gibney movie tied to Elkind’s book that is just now being released. The author also of an award-winning bestseller on Enron, Elkind says he instead sat miked up in front of a camera watching Stone, Davis, radio host Curtis Sliwa, and nominal Democrat Bob Beckel rail on. “Someone finally said we’re sorry, but that because of technical difficulties we can’t put you on,” said Elkind, a minute or so before the segment ended.
“The issue,” says Elkind,” is not how they treated me. It’s how they treated the truth.” Elkind points out that Stone — who was ranting so wildly he talked over the host, Eric Bolling, several times — was “a paid political assassin,” having collected $20,000-a-month from Senate Republican Leader Joe Bruno (who was subsequently convicted on federal corruption charges) “to destroy Spitzer.” Davis, who is actually running as Stone’s candidate on a platform of legalizing drugs and prostitution, was so over the top she contended that Spitzer had actually “used the services” of her prostitution rings “dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of times.”
Davis started claiming Spitzer was a client three weeks after Spitzer, who conceded he did business with an entirely different prostitution ring, stepped down. The trigger was her own arrest in March 2008. At that time, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office raided her operation, laying claim to records that included a list of 2,000 clients. The DA’s office was quoted again and again as saying that Spitzer’s name did not appear in Davis’ records, indicating that there was “no evidence” that he ever did business with her. Yet Stone and Davis have turned this bogus charge into a crusade, or at least a publicity bonanza.
Elkind says he interviewed Davis when he did his book and “asked her repeatedly for any evidence” and she “never offered any proof.” He says she even charged that Spitzer had liaisons with her service in the Corinthian, the largest apartment building ever built by Spitzer’s father Bernard, located on East 38th Street. “I would have loved to have written that Spitzer met prostitutes in his father’s most prestigious property,” but Davis just asserted it. “Eliot told me he knew all the doormen there,” says Elkind, which made the charge as “ridiculous” to Elkind as Davis’ new claim of “hundreds” of Spitzer visits.
In Elkind’s book, he says “law-enforcement officials told me there is no evidence Spitzer had ever done business with Davis.”
Stone convicted Spitzer of several crimes, abetted by Bolling. “He breaks the law with impunity,” declared Stone, going on at great length about Spitzer violation of “federal money laundering laws by concealing his payments to call girls,” transporting a prostitute “across five state lines,” and blackmailing targets of his probes when he was New York’s attorney general. When Beckel, who’s had his own prostitution controversy, asked “why was he never prosecuted,” the best that a suddenly muted Stone could offer was “because he could afford the best lawyers in the country.”
Of course, it was a Bush appointee, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, who wrote Spitzer a letter saying there was “insufficient evidence” to charge him with any violation of law, after a yearlong investigation. Garcia was just the honored speaker at the state GOP convention in June, attended by Stone. No one on Bolling’s show mentioned that.
Stone even went down memory lane on Troopergate, the pseudo-scandal he pushed against Spitzer before the prostitution charges that brought the governor down. Calling it “right out of Nazi Germany” and a “police state,” Stone revived the canard that Spitzer “used New York State troopers” to “spy” on political opponent Bruno, which Stone said was confirmed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who, to his credit, “issued a scathing report.” Actually, while Cuomo’s 57-page report did make some findings critical of Spitzer, it stated at the very start that his office “found no evidence that the State Police conducted actual surveillance of Senator Bruno.”
Bolling actually introduced Stone as the man whose “tip” to the FBI started the Spitzer scandal, another Stone invention eviscerated by Elkind in his book. Stone has claimed that one of his attorneys at his behest wrote the FBI reporting that Spitzer “used the services of high priced call girls” in Florida, where Stone lives. “FBI officials say they have searched for such a letter and found no trace of it,” reports Elkind, who also got a rather tame response from Stone. “I’m not surprised they would deny a tip from a citizen” was all he said. Elkind also points out that Spitzer’s “only known Florida assignation” occurred three months after the Stone letter was supposedly sent.
Fox’s fixation on Spitzer’s escapades is quite out of line with its repeated bows to an actual sitting U.S. Senator, David Vitter, the Republican seeking re-election in Louisiana whose prostitution recklessness would make Spitzer blush. In May, I published a tally of 22 Fox appearances by Vitter since his scandal blew. I haven’t gone back to tabulate the number since, but Vitter is routinely celebrated on the network as an American wiseman. Of course, Fox’s resident guru is Dick Morris, whose Democratic polling career at Bill Clinton’s side ended in a prostitution scandal.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking at CNN,” declared Stone, who became infamous in 1996, when he had to resign from the Bob Dole presidential campaign after he was exposed advertising for swinging partners. “I don’t why this guy has the moral authority to comment on any subject.”