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ABC: Non-GOP DC Madam Clients Aren’t News

From the sometimes great Howard Kurtz at the DNC’s Washington Post:

Jeane Palfrey speaks to reporters as she departs after a hearing at a federal court house in Washington April 30, 2007.

Madam Story Keeps Mum On Clientele

’20/20′ Declines to Identify Those Not Already Known

By Howard Kurtz
Saturday, May 5, 2007; C01

During several weeks of calls to possible clients of the woman dubbed the D.C. Madam, Brian Ross of ABC confirmed that some fairly important people had used her escort service.

But when he put together last night’s segment for “20/20,” the network’s chief investigative reporter decided against outing anyone beyond the two people who already had been identified.

“Their names won’t mean anything to our audience,” Ross said in an interview. “They just weren’t newsworthy enough.” Instead, he said, “what we really wanted to do is demonstrate the range of official Washington” involved with the escort service.

Their positions, as described by Ross, made them important, at least by the capital’s standards: A federal prosecutor, who recently died. A handful of military officers, including the head of an Air Force intelligence squadron. A senior official at the World Bank and other officials at NASA and the International Monetary Fund. Corporate CEOs. And lobbyists, both Democratic and Republican.

But their relative anonymity spared them exposure as a result of the decision by Ross, “20/20” Executive Producer David Sloan and Senior Vice President Kerry Smith…

Ross said he personally called 20 to 30 people on the list. “Many were very honest and said ‘I dreaded this call coming,’ ” he said.

In one case, a man who told the escort service he was a White House economist turned out to have engaged in résumé inflation. He actually works across the street as an analyst for the Office of Thrift Supervision, Ross said…

One ABC inquiry became public last week when Randall Tobias, a deputy secretary of state, resigned after Ross called him. Ross said that perhaps he approached Tobias too early — “I didn’t think he’d quit the next day” — but that if the official, who ran the Agency for International Development, had stayed quiet, “20/20” would have identified him.

“This was a guy leading a crackdown on prostitution worldwide,” Ross said. “The fact that he was a repeat customer of this and other services, the hypocrisy made that important.” But despite the expectations raised by Tobias’s resignation, ABC found no one of comparable prominence in the phone records.

Another client contacted by ABC, Harlan Ullman, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Washington Times columnist, was identified by Palfrey in a court filing and named on the program

While he could be criticized for withholding the names of officials who may have hired prostitutes, Ross said he is comfortable with the decision. In the end, the story didn’t quite live up to its much-ballyhooed billing.

“Like much of Washington, it turns out this is pretty dull stuff,” Ross said.

How absolutely typical. After ABC News “outs” a Republican office holder and and a conservative columnist, they decide the other names wouldn’t be of interest to the public.

In one case, a man who told the escort service he was a White House economist turned out to have engaged in résumé inflation. He actually works across the street as an analyst for the Office of Thrift Supervision, Ross said.

Can you imagine Mr. Ross’s disappointment?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, May 5th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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