CLARK ENDORSES KERRY; NEW ATTACKS INCLUDE DRUDGE RUMOR OF AFFAIR
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla., Feb. 12, 2004, 2:43pm EST -- Matt Drudge, the gossip columnist who broke the story originated by Newsweek of President Clinton's affair with a White House intern, says a similar story is about to break concerning an alleged relationship between Sen. John Kerry and a former employee of the Associated Press who has now "fled" to Africa. The rumor remains unsubstantiated.
The only evidence Drudge provided was a second-hand report of an off-the-record briefing by retired Gen. Wesley Clark, which Drudge says was confirmed to him by three reporters present, in which Clark alleged that the Kerry campaign would soon "implode" due to scandal arising from an alleged affair with the woman.
"In an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, General Wesley Clark plainly stated: "Kerry will implode over an intern issue," Drudge reported late Thursday morning.
Clark was unavailable for comment on the issue today, but his campaign aides told Fox News that Clark will endorse Kerry for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in Wisconsin tomorrow. Fox reported the endorsement story at 2:44p.m. EST, less than five seconds after this story and an accompanying photo was mailed to 3,000 editors across the nation, including Fox News.
The rumor was proliferating even as a talk show host in this conservative Gulf Coast city was discussing other rumors that Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, "is crazy." The allegations first surfaced in phone calls to the Bud Beck Show on Bradenton's WWPR-AM. Beck describes himself as a "progressive liberal" and is a longtime Kerry supporter, regular listeners say.
Meanwhile, the online Website www.NewsMax.com is attacking Kerry for a photo in which he is shown about 15 feet behind Vietnam actress and antiwar activist Jane Fonda, saying veterans are "enraged" by the photo. The site, devoted to conservative and neo-conservative interpretation of current affairs, is running nine highly negative stories about Kerry based on two photos and other reports, most dating back 30 years.
Kerry, in remarks released today by his campaign, identified the issues he will address. They did not include the various attacks.
"No matter what issue, foreign or domestic, I address, my underlying message will be the same: It's time to renew a sense of common purpose. My presidential campaign will be built around the ideas of shared endeavor, national service, intergenerational obligation, and activism aimed at overcoming partisan and personal rivalries to meet the demands of a decisive, even fateful, era," the 59-year-old Massachussets senator said.
The series of attacks broke almost simultaneously and did not reference each other. The timing, along with lavish coverage of a speech by President George W. Bush today to a defense industry trade group, suggests that the Bush administration and its political advisors are deeply worried about the President's prospects in a heads-up contest with Kerry, a highly skilled and eloquent debater who has much the same educational background as Mr. Bush.
The Drudge story is being investigated by numerous news outlets, according to Drudge, but at least one of those, The Associated Press, is quoted in other reports as saying it does not disclose stories it is investigating or not investigating.
Drudge reported the rumor as a major breaking news story on his busy Website, www.drudgereport.com.
"A serious investigation of the woman and the nature of her relationship with Sen. John Kerry has been underway at Time magazine, ABC News, the Washington Post, The Hill and the Associated Press, where the woman in question once worked," the Drudge site reported.
Clark, apparently in spite of his belief that the Kerry campaign would implode, quit the race the day after his briefing with reporters when Kerry handed him humbling defeats in both Virginia and Tennessee.
Drudge also suggests that former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean has stayed in the race because of the rumor and its potential to harm Kerry.
The Dean campaign has not commented on the charge.
Longtime John Kerry supporter Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter.