The London Times reported last weekend that the death of Vincent Foster has come back to haunt President and Hillary Clinton because of the publication of investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy’s new book, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster.”
Of course, we all know that the mysterious death of the former White House deputy counsel and close friend of the Clintons will not really come back to haunt them until newspapers in the United States begin reporting on the book’s findings and conclusions — or, failing that, doing their own credible investigations.
Ruddy’s book, however, is by any standard a triumph and vindication of the most courageous, fearless, relentless and unfairly criticized reporter with whom I have ever had the honor of working in my 20 years in the news business.
I challenge anyone — but especially Kenneth Starr, Robert Fiske, Louis Freeh and every member of Congress — to read this book and address the fundamental problems and inconsistencies Ruddy raises. Do it publicly. Debate Ruddy. Don’t try to malign his character or, worse yet, use your friends in the media to do it for you. Don’t say you’ve investigated this case and hide your secret report away in a judge’s office. Don’t hide yourself behind your position and suggest the public is just too stupid to understand the case. And let’s stop pretending, as so many members of Congress seem willing to do, that the world as we know it will end if the facts are ever actually revealed.
It has been more than four years since Foster’s body was found in Fort Marcy Park. But government investigators still can’t explain how it got there. Despite thorough searches of his pockets and car at the scene, his keys were not found until they turned up mysteriously at the morgue after White House personnel, including Craig Livingstone, came to identify the body.
As any informed person knows by now, thanks to Ruddy’s reporting, there was no trace of soil on Foster’s shoes, though official explanations insist he walked through the park to shoot himself. Even CBS’ “60 Minutes” hatchet man Mike Wallace, in his attempt to discredit Ruddy before an entire nation, had to admit privately he could not replicate such a walk without getting soil on his shoes.
Ruddy shows persuasively and conclusively in his new book that Foster never owned the .38 Colt service revolver found at his side. The gun was not the kind you would pick up at a firearms store. It was a composite of pieces from several guns — the kind of untraceable weapon typically used as a “drop gun” by professional hitmen. Foster’s fingerprints were not found on the gun. And the bullet allegedly fired from it was never found in the park, despite exhaustive searches that turned up rounds dating back to the Civil War.
Independent forensics tests, commissioned by my organization, the Western Journalism Center, conclude the drainage of blood at the scene indicates that Foster’s heart had stopped beating before the shot was fired into his mouth. Three independent handwriting analysts who examined copies of the note found torn up in Foster’s briefcase say it is a forgery.
At what point do we stop pretending we understand the circumstances of this man’s death? What does it say about the state of the “free press” when more energy and resources are devoted to scandalizing the only reporter who bothered to do the investigative legwork than on examining the facts and evidence of the case? What does it say about a country when a high government official and lifelong friend of the president and first lady meets a violent death without an explanation that meets the smell test?
“A visit to Fort Marcy Park — built on President Lincoln’s orders — takes one back to a critical period in our history when rivers of blood were spilled in order to preserve this unique experiment of ours — this government where justice would reign supreme, and no man, no group of men, no matter how powerful or highly placed, would be exempt from public accountability,” Ruddy observes in his book. “With the ‘investigations’ of the Park Police, the FBI, Fiske and Starr, this tiny square of land may yet become the symbol of a cover-up conducted by people who have, with the help of the press, placed themselves above the law.”
I hope that Ruddy’s optimism proves correct. His book should renew the national debate about the circumstances of Foster’s death. It may provide our last chance to know the truth and to see justice is served.