Is it real or is it Memorex?

The unproven report of a Karl Rove indictment in the investigation of the outing of former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame continues to create buzz on the Internet but has yet to be picked up by any major media outlet.

Reports Brian Dickerson of The Detroit Free Press:

Was it an improbable outside-the-Beltway scoop on the ultimate inside-the-Beltway story? A criminal leak concerning the grand jury investigation of a criminal leak? Or just a red-hot rumor that caught fire in the dry tinder of too many trial attorneys?

Whatever it was, the news that White House adviser Karl Rove had been indicted for perjury electrified the 700 or so lawyers, judges and elected officials (including featured speakers Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.) gathered at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency for Saturday night’s annual banquet of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association.

Until they found out that maybe he hadn’t been.

MTLA Vice President Robert Raitt was heading toward the podium to introduce Clinton, the banquet’s keynote speaker, when Gerald Acker, a Southfield trial attorney and prominent Democratic fund-raiser, mentioned Rove’s indictment.

Raitt didn’t question the report. "Gerry is pretty connected," he explained Sunday, "and I thought, well, that’ll get this crowd going."

A couple of minutes later, Raitt brought the heavily Democratic audience to its feet with the, um, news.

Among those who declined to join the standing ovation was Michigan Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Whitbeck, one of the few Republican officeholders in attendance. He said it struck him as odd that federal prosecutors had chosen to announce such a significant development on a Saturday night, but he left the banquet convinced that Rove’s indictment was a fait accompli.

Twenty-four hours later, that was still in doubt. A few Democrat-friendly Web sites, including www., reported as early as Saturday afternoon that Rove’s arrest was imminent. But by Sunday evening no reputable broadcast or print outlet had published the rumor.

Sunday, an embarrassed Acker told me he’d passed along the report of Rove’s indictment after hearing it from Mark J. Bernstein, an Ann Arbor lawyer whose resume includes a stint in the Bill Clinton White House.

Although some are backpedeling from the story first report by Jason Leopold on Truthout, the anti-Bush websites and blogs continue to hype the story.

Byron York of National Review Online weighs in:

The report came out of the blue on Saturday.  Jason Leopold, who has written a memoir, entitled News Junkie, in which, according to the book’s promotional material, he portrays himself as a writer "whose addictive tendencies led him from a life of drug abuse and petty crime to become an award-winning investigative journalist," has written wildly unreliable reports about the CIA leak affair before.  But still, reporters of every stripe felt they had to check this one out.

So did I.  I talked with Rove defense spokesman Mark Corallo, who told me the story was completely baseless.  Part of our conversation:

Did Patrick Fitzgerald come to Patton Boggs for 15 hours Friday?
Did he come to Patton Boggs for any period of time Friday?
Did he meet anywhere else with Karl Rove’s representatives?
Did he communicate in any way with Karl Rove’s representatives?
Did he inform Rove or Rove’s representatives that Rove had been indicted?

So there seems to be nothing to the story, certainly nothing which any other reporter has seen fit to report.  Which raises a question: What is going on here? The journalists who checked out the story, quite properly, did not repeat Leopold’s bad information.  But for some media blogger out there, it might be reasonable to ask: Where are these reports coming from?

Some of the Democratic-leaning blogs, however, are starting to question Leopold’s credibility as well. On today’s Daily Kos:

I had hoped Jason Leopold would just go away.  It’s clear from his own statements in various places that he’s struggled with some substance abuse and mental illness issues.  He has my sympathy for this.  But he’s now become a bigger story because he’s made such grandiose claims about having deep sources all through the government and somewhere among the investigators or investigated in the Valerie Plame outing.  So it’s time to come forward and give you some evidence with which to assess Jason Leopold’s credibility.  I’ll refrain from making conclusions, but it’s worth putting out there for people to assess.

On January 14, 2006 in an excellent post at The Next Hurrah, emptywheel closely examined an article by Leopold in which she demonstrated his claims were not supported by his sources.  Leopold showed up in the thread, and things got interesting.  Leopold called me a pussy.  Some guy named Tom Marconi claiming to be former CIA threatened commenter jonnybutter.  Andy Gumbel, a writer at the Guardian, vouched for Leopold.  And someone named Adam Yorkshire shilled for Leopold’s book.

But here’s the problem.  If all these comments came from different people, they appear to have all spent that evening together, because all those comments came from just two IP addresses.

But William Rivers Pitt, the Godfather of Truthhout has a lot to lose if Leopold’s story turns out to be wrong. He still defends Leopold but seems to be losing his cool on the subject. He posted this on DU in response to one poster who questioned Leopold’s credibility:

The site admins ought to pay me cold hard cash…for outing trolls and other fuckshits of low mental weight.

Those who would like to see Karl Rove go down (us included) still hope the story is true.If Truthout gets burned they have our sympathy. We’ve been burned by sources before and had to publicly eat crow big time. When that happens you face a long climb back up the hill of credibility with your readers.