If you are interested in how rumors start and spread in the political world, then this story by Alexandra Polier is a must-read. Since I am mentioned by name in this story I must clarify a few things and make sure the record is clear. When the “Kerry Intern” story broke on WatchBlog on February 6, I was still employed by the Clark campaign and was not involved in the editorial management of WatchBlog (in fact, I had shed my involvement in WatchBlog the previous October because I saw it as a potential conflict of interest). I found out about this story when a British journalist called my cell phone on February 13 and asked me if I wanted to comment. Since I had no idea what he was talking about I asked him to call back in a few hours while I did some research and educated myself.
In short order I discovered the WatchBlog story, saw that Drudge had escalated the rumor to the world and was finding lots of conspiracy theories online saying that Chris Lehane and I were in cahoots together to bring John Kerry down and save the Clark campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is complete coincidence that the story was broken on WatchBlog by an anonymous editor who wanted to make a name for himself.
As soon as I realized what this rumor meant, I tracked down a friend I trusted at the Clark campaign and asked for his advice. He said I should go talk to Vanessa Weaver, one of the Clark campaign’s executives. Since Wes had already announced his withdrawal from the race I was mostly interested in saving my reputation and making sure that the people running the Clark campaign knew the truth of the matter.
At this point I knew that the story was going to be huge but I had no idea how big. Drudge never linked to the WatchBlog story or credited it, however a copycat site called the Drudge Retort did link to it and I watched the traffic spike to 80,000-100,000 users a day. WatchBlog is a mostly-text site, yet my server logs show that I was pushing about 2 GB of data a day. Thankfully, my hosting provider (Pair) allows for these kinds of things and only bills quota overages if they’re sustained for a longer period of time.
So, that’s my side of the story and how I unwittingly became part of a political sex scandal, purely through a couple of coincidences, a lot of speculation and way too much jumping to conclusions. It’s not something I ever want to go through again.
Posted by Cameron Barrett at June 1, 2004 02:56 AM