Chattermailbox: The Spectator Defends Olson

Chatterbox received the following e-mail from Wlady Pleszczynski, a former top editor at the American Spectator, now editor of the Spectator’s Web site, concerning the May 11 Whopper of the Week:


Your Olson item would be McCarthyite nonsense if you knew what you were talking about. But since you don’t I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

First of all, Brock was never part of the so-called Arkansas Project. His Troopergate story, e..g., was reported and ready to go well before the so called project got going. What’s more, he kept his distance from the Henderson-Boynton duo that operated the Scaife-funded program, finding them of no use to his own work. So when you implicate me in your Olson liar of the week item, based on Edsall’s tendentious use of what I told him, you do miss the point entirely–David knew Ted and probably talked to him about things he was working on or about things in general, as reporters and people in a position to know tend to do. But that doesn’t mean at all such conversations constituted Arkansas Project business.

Perhaps you’ve been taken in by David’s revised view of the Project. When at the magazine he clearly had nothing to do with it. Once he left he decided that because he was at TAS and the Scaife project ran through it and he was paid by TAS, that made him part of it. As Miller-Ponuru write in Friday’s NROnline, that sort of thinking would make any dealing by Olson with anyone at the mag an Arkansas Project transaction. By this logic, Jake Tapper, whom you cite, was part of the Arkansas Project as well since he contributed sketch art to the magazine during that time and was paid by the magazine for those sketches.

To touch on a second point–Olson’s firm being paid from Arkansas Project monies. Contributors to the magazine were paid in a check from the American Spectator Educational Foundation. There would be nothing on the check to indicate which internal account the money was coming from. So how could the recipient be expected to know that those were Scaife dollars? Given that we weren’t running much of anything based on Hendereson-Boynton’s work, I always urged our publisher Ron Burr to pay for the Clinton-related pieces we did run (and none of which were researched or reported via the so-called project) out of the Scaife grant (the overwhelming amount of which went to cover Henderson-Boynton’s salaries and expenses). The Scaife people eventually greatly disapproved of this paying for articles they weren’t party to.

Finally, to charge Olson with lying on the basis of deeply biased testimony by David Brock, who has had it in for his former friends Ted and Barbara Olson since at least 1997, makes me wonder where you left your journalistic judgment. If your purpose is simply to participate in a coordinated Democratic witchhunt against a leading conservative figure, then why don’t you just say so? I’d hate to have to see you credit yourself with a Whopper of the Week.


Wlady Pleszczynski

If Chatterbox reads Pleszczynski correctly, his point is that not all get-Clinton stories published in the American Spectator during this period were Arkansas Project stories, even if they were paid for with Arkansas Project funds, and that not even an American Spectator board member like Olson could be expected to keep all this straight. But if there was so much ambiguity about what was and was not Arkansas Project work, why didn’t Olson just tell the Senate Judiciary committee, “I don’t know”?