In the summer of 2005, Richard Johnson, the editor of the New York Post’s feared Page Six column, was having trouble getting a new passport to fly out to a party being hosted by Sean (P. Diddy) Combs in Saint-Tropez.
So he did what any citizen would do: He made a direct appeal to the office of junior New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
“Richard Johnson found the bureaucracy delaying his passport, and he appealed to Clinton’s staff for help, as any constituent would,” said Howard Rubenstein, who is a spokesman for the Post. “And he secured, in a legal and proper way, a passport that he was entitled to.
“There were no favors,” Mr. Rubenstein added.
(“While we’re very proud of our constituent services, we don’t comment on individual cases,” said Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Senator Clinton.)
The question of favors has been a big one lately at Page Six. Last week, the column pre-empted one of its former employees, Jared Paul Stern, in his efforts to make public a series of accusations about ethical lapses among the column’s staff, by printing an item themselves outlining all of the accusations.
They got hold of those accusations—which include the charge that Page Six stories deemed unflattering to Bill and Hillary Clinton were regularly killed at the newspaper—when Mr. Stern’s lawyer sent an unsworn affidavit provided by another former Post staffer, Ian Spiegelman, to their publisher.
Mr. Stern had been threatening to sue the New York Post for wrongful dismissal; last year, the freelance reporter was accused of attempting to extort money from billionaire Ron Burkle in exchange for “protection” in the column. The accusation sparked a criminal investigation, but no charges were filed against Mr. Stern. The affidavit was meant to put some muscle behind the lawsuit threat, and presumably provoke a settlement.
The part of the affidavit that concerns the former President and First Lady—and which Page Six printed in May 18 editions of the Post—is vague.
“Politicians such as Hillary Clinton and others in a position to grant Murdoch and News Corp. valuable concessions and favors were … fellated in print,” the affidavit reads in part. And, later: “Page Six was ordered to kill unflattering stories about Hillary and Bill Clinton on numerous occasions.”
Mr. Spiegelman confessed that he was unable to recall any particular story about Bill or Hillary Clinton that had been killed.
“I’m not a one-man database on what stories got killed when,” he told The Observer.
But speaking to The Observer on May 22 , Jared Paul Stern was less vague.
In the summer of 2005, he said, he was preparing to bust the publication date on Edward Klein’s then-forthcoming Hillary Clinton tell-all book, The Truth About Hillary.
“We had heard that there was some pretty juicy stuff in there; we had heard that he had gone into the lesbian kind of thing and that stuff,” Mr. Stern recalled.