This column would like to thank Richard N. Perle for his recent efforts to breathe new life into the Perle Libel Watch, which was just 14 days from termination. No, Perle hasn’t filed libel proceedings against Seymour M. Hersh in England, as he promised almost one year ago, in response to Hersh’s unflattering profile of him in The New Yorker. According to an ABC News report from yesterday, Perle resigned his seat on the Pentagon advisory group, the Defense Policy Board, for proactive legal reasons outlined by his lawyer, Samuel Abeday. Unshackled from the board, Perle will now be able to sue news organizations that “falsely accused him of conflicts of interest,” said Abeday.
Abeday’s statement puts the press on legal notice that a libel suit will come their way if they so much as think the words “conflict of interest” in the proximity of Perle.
But exactly how much bite is there in this latest woof? I don’t know of any publication that has directly accused Perle of conflict of interest. Sy Hersh’s New Yorker piece never accuses him of conflict of interest for simultaneously serving on the Defense Policy Board and leading an active business career as a venture capitalist at Trireme Partners, which “invests in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense,” as Hersh writes. Hersh asks Perle if there are any conflicts between his two roles and discusses whether there might be an appearance of conflict of interest, but he never makes the direct charge.
And now that Perle has left the board, he’s eliminated any possible conflict of interest because he no longer has a public role. It takes two roles to conflict, for Christ’s sake. The only area in which a journalist, politician, prosecutor, or ethicist could possibly raise the subject of a conflict of interest would be in Perle’s many different business affairs.
If Abeday’s comment to ABC News is indicative of the quality of legal guidance Perle is getting, it’s no wonder the Hersh suit hasn’t been filed yet. The comment does, however, portend more empty threats of libel action from Perle, which is most excellent news for the continued health of the Richard Perle Libel Watch.
Thanks to the many members of the Press Box Auxiliary who e-mailed me the latest Perle news. Send your Perles to firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)