There was a Hall-of-Mirrors quality to watching reporter Ken Silverstein interviewed by Bill Moyers Sunday about his article in Harper’s describing the sting operation he conducted to get two Washington lobbying firms to pitch for the non-existent account of a repressive government.
The mirrors multiplied into an Orson Welles “Lady in Shanghai” shootout after Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post media column observed that “no matter how good the story, lying to get it raises as many questions about journalists as their subjects.”
So far, so civilized. But Silverstein took the debate into Valerie Plame territory today on the Harper’s blog by quoting an anonymous comment about Kurtz’s column, which also discussed journalists’ political contributions, on the Post web site:
“While Kurtz is wringing his hands about reporters’ campaign contributions, it might be nice of him to disclose who his wife is and what she does for a living. Google ‘Sheri Annis‘ for insight into the non-partisan Kurtz household. Maybe Howie should rename his TV show ‘Resourceable Liars.’”
Googling Ms. Annis reveals that she is “a political commentator and media consultant” who was once “the spokeswoman for Arnold Schwarzenegger” and that she writes for magazines and newspapers. Reading a few turned up nothing sinister. In fact, they were quite well-written.
In interviewing him, Moyers observed that Silverstein’s imposture sounded “like something out of Borat.”
Silverstein replied, “We toyed with the Borat type approach. But...we wanted to make a political point, which was that the rules that apply to these firms are too weak...And so we thought we better do it straight as opposed to doing it as a comedy routine.”
Not a great decision. It’s no terrific public service to show that lobbyists are eager to lie for anybody who pays them. But that’s a matter of opinion.
What isn’t is that Silverstein owes Howard Kurtz and his wife an apology for trying to Scooter Libby them.