Media nail author of Clinton expose

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The Independent Online
Hell hath no fury, and heaven no sanctimonious moralising, like the American media when they consider they have been lied to by one of their own. Any doubters on that score should ask Joe Klein.

On Wednesday, after he had been nailed by incontrovertible handwriting evidence, the Newsweek political columnist confessed he was the anonymous author of Primary Colors, the scathing roman-a-clef about the 1992 Clinton campaign, whose identity has been this publishing season's most entertaining mystery.

A cause for much merriment? Not a bit of it. Instead, Mr Klein finds himself in the midst of a controversy that has seen one commentator liken his earlier denials of authorship to the invented articles of Janet Cooke, probably the greatest blot on the reputation of US journalism in recent decades.

Ms Cooke made up the story of the child heroin addict, Jimmy, and won a Pulitzer prize in 1981 until her deception was revealed. Mr Klein, by contrast, has written a work of fiction. His sin (apart from earning $6m from the enterprise) is having denied authorship to colleagues who challenged him.

But humour is not a prominent quality of the American press. True, Newsweek says it will keep him on. CBS news however, for whom Mr Klein worked as a political commentator, sounds unforgiving."Clearly it is impossible to have a relationship with someone who is not telling the truth. We put him on the air saying 'No'," an executive lamented.

"He hurts the business of journalism," said Ken Auletta, the media writer of the New Yorker magazine. The Washington Post, which was both victim of the Cooke hoax and solver of the Klein case, ran two long pieces leaving no doubt of its profound disapproval.

But if "Anonymous" is dead, Primary Colors is not. Next January director Mike Nichols will begin shooting a $65m (pounds 40m) film of the book, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson as Governor and Mrs Stanton - aka former Arkansas Governor and First Lady, Bill and Hillary Clinton.