Did Steve Brill, would-be Savonarola of the media, purposely butcher a quote? One of his scooplets in the premier issue of Brill’s Content, is the identity of the person who tipped off Matt Drudge to the Monica Lewinsky story, thus kicking off the whole Flytrap festival. Brill suggests that the source was Lucianne Goldberg, Linda Tripp’s friend and agent. Brill’s source for the scooplet: Jonah Goldberg, Lucianne’s son (and an office neighbor of Slate). In Brill’s article, Lucianne and Drudge both deny that Lucianne leaked to Drudge. But one paragraph later, Jonah seems to sell out his mother as a liar:
“‘It would make sense for my mom to have talked to Drudge,’ says Jonah Goldberg. ‘She really was mad that Newsweek was killing it and she didn’t believe [Newsweek] would print it the next week. So, she may…be afraid to admit it because the leak seemed to blow up in Starr’s face even though she had no way of knowing that at the time.’”
Jonah tells Chatterbox: “I told Brill that my mother was not the source for Matt Drudge…. The entire gist of our conversation was that my mother was not the source for Drudge. I know for a fact that my mother was not the source.” According to Jonah, the high-minded Brill left out critical portions of their conversation, completely misrepresenting his point.
Perhaps Lucianne Goldberg really was Drudge’s source. That still wouldn’t give Brill the right to cite Jonah as evidence, when Jonah was saying the opposite. Of course Jonah may be lying to his friend Chatterbox about what he said to Brill. (Neither Brill nor Jonah taped the interview, says Jonah.) But then why would Brill wish to rely on a liar’s word? As Jonah points out, one theme of Brill’s massive opus is that Jonah and Lucianne Goldberg have been manipulating the media. So why, Jonah asks, does Brill take this particular alleged Goldberg revelation at face value? “If I did tell him that my mother was the source, then why would he believe it? Isn’t the point of the story that the media is being spun by the Goldbergs?”
All this spinning–Chatterbox is dizzy.