Tags: Anatomy | Smear | Campaign: | The | Democrat | Attack | Jeb

Anatomy of a Smear Campaign: The Democrat Attack on Jeb Bush

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

Their latest assault involved a rumor that was totally without any basis in fact, but nonetheless targeted with a charge of adultery a man the Democrats love to hate.

The word was all over Tallahassee and Washington and wherever media gather: a scandal involving Jeb Bush and a female associate was about to break wide open.

The rumor spread like wildfire, yet no facts to back up the story ever appeared - anywhere. Reporters scurried around trying to confirm the rumor but could find absolutely not one shred of proof that the story was true.

But the story refused to die. Anonymous callers continued to feed supposed details to journalists who were never able to confirm them. Then it was hinted at in the British press, and columnist Robert Novak wrote of Gov. Bush’s alleged "family problems.”

Last week, aware that the matter had reached the stage where the story had to be dealt with, Gov. Bush deliberately exposed himself to media questioning, fully aware that it would come up. He welcomed the opportunity to deny the story in the strongest possible terms, swearing he had been faithful to his wife throughout their married life.

It was not the first time the rumor machine had linked the governor to another woman. As Washington Times senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon has reported, the Gore campaign used a false rumor linking Jeb Bush to Secretary of State Katherine Harris romantically in an effort to smear and discredit both with a totally unsubstantiated and utterly untrue story.

The rapid spread of the rumor that implied that Bush was having an adulterous affair with Cynthia Henderson, secretary at the Department of Management Services intrigued St. Petersburg Times columnist Lucy Morgan. She had laughed at the Bush-Harris rumor, knowing that the two were not friends and that the governor had even supported her opponent in the last election. Instead of laughing at the Bush-Henderson rumor, however, she went looking for the source.

Her curiosity was aroused when those anonymous callers insisted that the governor’s wife had moved out of the Governor’s Mansion. That happened to be the very day when Morgan was visiting the mansion and talked with Mrs. Bush, who was still very much present. Obviously someone was working very hard to keep the rumor alive, inventing new lies to back up the original.

"My research began with an e-mail from a lawyer who is suing the state,” Morgan wrote. "Take a look at Democrats.com, he suggested. Search for Henderson and you'll find an interesting item.

"I dialed up the Web site and searched. There was a nasty little notice suggesting that Bush and Henderson were having an affair. The item said Henderson was the only agency head with an office in the governor's suite at the Capitol.”

Morgan knew differently. Henderson has no such office. Her offices are six miles away from the Capitol.

Morgan checked into the Web site and found it was registered to David Lytel of Syracuse, N.Y.

"I called him to ask a few questions,” she recalled. "He described it as a place created so Democrats could spread stories not being published in the mainstream media. The liberal answer to the right-wing Web sites that published so much trash about President Bill Clinton, he said.”

Lytel referred her to one Robert Fertik, author of the piece on Bush. When she challenged the false item about Henderson’s nonexistent Capitol office, Fertik backed off, claiming the story was "work in process." He then removed it from the Web site. "He said he was still working on it with ‘credible sources’ in Tallahassee,” Morgan reports.

Checking into the backgrounds of the two men, Morgan learned that they had been among those Democrats working against the Bushes during the Florida recount.

"Both were longtime Democrats. Lytel helped with the White House Web site under Clinton,” she wrote

"For the first time I could say exactly where the rumor was coming from: Some very angry Democrats who don't like President George W. Bush or his younger brother. It was like finding a fingerprint.”

NewsMax.com checked the Democrats.com Web site, with which the official Democrat party insists it has no connection, although the people involved in peddling this blatant Democrat propaganda are longtime Democrat party pros. It is filled with hysterical stories that claim that the election was stolen from Al Gore in Florida and attacks the Bush administration on a score of issues.

Among this deluge of drivel was an angry denial of Morgan’s charge that they had been the source of the rumor.

"Lucy Morgan inaccurately reported that Democrats.com was 'the first to actually publish one of the rumors, suggesting a romantic relationship between [Jeb] Bush and [Cynthia] Henderson,' Democrats.com wrote. "In fact, Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat was the first to publish "The Rumor" on May 10, referring to "the supposed Clintonesque dalliance of two high-ranking public officials," whom he coyly refused to name.

But the statement then goes on to admit that Democrats.com "linked to Cotterell's article and supplied the missing names, which were known to every journalist in Tallahassee."

Maybe, but the names weren’t known to the public until Democrats.com, by its own admission, supplied them.

"(One day earlier, Democrats.com drafted a story about "The Rumor," but we never published it - as Lucy Morgan well knows, because she interviewed us about it),” the Web site statement claimed

Question: If the story had never appeared on the Democrats.com Web site, how could Morgan have "interviewed [them] about it"?

On Thursday, Democrats.com launched an attack on the liberal New Republic (TNR), which had the temerity to criticize the Web site’s sleazy role in promoting the false rumor.

Under the heading The New Republic Attacks Democrats.com, it wrote: "Democrats.com is getting so darn popular! In its May 28 issue, The New Republic's Notebook attacked us for complaining about Ken Starr last year, then reporting on Jeb & Cynthia this year. Hey TNR - are you incapable of seeing the difference between investigative reporting and Ken's Starr Chamber?”

Here’s part of what the New Republic wrote: "Speaking of post-Lewinsky changes of heart, Democrats used to spend a lot of time saying that affairs between consulting adults were nobody else's business. But Democrats.com, the website that first wrote about Jeb Bush's supposed dalliance with a state employee, has evidently decided that prying into politicians sex lives isn't so bad after all.”

Note that Democrats.com does not deny TNR’s charge that the Web site reported "on Jeb & Cynthia this year,” as it did with Morgan’s similar charge.

As for describing its rumor mongering as "investigative reporting,” what can one say in the face of that outlandish absurdity?

TNR also noted that although the media describe the Web site as being unaffiliated with the Democrat party, it doesn’t "absolve top Democratic strategists like Stan Greenberg, Al Gore's storied pollster, and Greg Simon, Gore's former domestic policy advisor, both listed on the website as members of the Democrats.com advisory Board, of responsibility.”

According to Lucy Morgan, the original Democrats.com piece said that the Globe tabloid and Vanity Fair were going to run the story. NewsMax.com spoke to Globe Editor Tony Frost, who said his paper was never ready to run a story about the rumor.

"Globe was up in Tallahasse with Vanity Fair and the Boston Globe along with other media,” Frost told NewsMax.com. Like all the other media, Globe’s reporters were unable to find any evidence of a Bush-Henderson romance.

He added that nobody from Globe had spoken to Democrats.com and was unable to say how it got the idea that Globe was ready to run with the story. "We’ve now pulled out” of the story, he said.

If anyone wondered who’d take the place of Sid Blumenthal as the out-of-power Democrat party’s behind-the-scenes slanderer-in-chief, he now has the answer.

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Their latest assault involved a rumor that was totally without any basis in fact, but nonetheless targeted with a charge of adultery a man the Democrats love to hate. The word was all over Tallahassee and Washington and wherever media gather: a scandal involving Jeb Bush...
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2001-00-24
Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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