“A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a
By Dan Moldea
It usually isn’t easy to write a book about a very controversial “red
hot” topic and make it into a stunning work of boredom. Author Dan Moldea
has done just that with his new book, “A Washington Tragedy: How the Death
of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm.”
If you thought the title was long-winded, try to trudge through the 445
pages of the book. Break out the No-Doz folks, you’ll need that, and maybe
a Thermos of coffee to get through this, if you have a desire to plunk down
$24.95 for a book that tells you practically nothing new.
This may come as a real surprise to some, as Moldea’s book was published
by Regnery, the conservative book publisher whose best-selling White House
tell-all “Unlimited Access” by former FBI agent Gary Aldrich drove the
establishment mad. Regnery also published British reporter Ambrose
Evans-Pritchard’s scandal tour-de-force “The Secret Life of Bill Clinton.”
Why, then, is Regnery publishing Dan Moldea, a professed liberal, whose
droning work contradicts Evans-Pritchard’s own reporting and even questions
his credibility as a journalist — even as Evans-Pritchard’s book is still
being sold in bookstores across the country? Why is the nation’s leading
conservative publisher producing a book that offers nothing new on this
extremely volatile subject, but simply accepts the many questionable
government reports on the matter, and accepts the White House account of
One good explanation is the one Evans-Pritchard has related to
colleagues. According to his sources at Regnery, Al Regnery, the publisher,
is a close friend of Kenneth Starr. They both worked together at the Reagan
Justice Department. Several other top Regnery personnel are close to Starr.
One is even married to one of Starr’s prosecutors who worked on the Foster
We know in Washington that friendship is often thicker than truth. Starr
is a close friend of people at Regnery, and both Evans-Pritchard and Ruddy
slam Starr for his complicity in the Foster cover-up. This did not make
Starr’s friends happy. Pritchard has told associates that Regnery even made
a last ditch effort to set up a meeting between Starr and Evans-Pritchard
to iron out differences, a meeting Pritchard flatly declined to attend.
There has been a clear strategy to combat questions about Foster’s
death, raised by the Western Journalism Center, through the work of
Christopher Ruddy and his detailed account of the cover-up “The Strange
Death of Vincent Foster” (Free Press), Evans-Pritchard’s book, Reed
Irvine’s Accuracy in Media, James Dale Davidson and others who have asked
the legitimate questions about Foster’s violent death. That strategy has
been to counter these individuals and groups by using “conservative” media
rather than liberal outlets.
Thus, establishment media have largely ignored the Foster controversy
while conservative establishment press like the Weekly Standard, the
American Spectator and National Review have all tried to write off the
Foster matter as kooky conspiracy nonsense. These publications used lots of
name calling and labeling, but never answered the substantive issues raised
about the discrepancies involving Foster’s death, and patent evidence the
White House engaged in a cover-up.
Dan Moldea’s new book is a continuation of that genre in hard cover.
Does he conduct any real investigation, as Ruddy and Evans-Pritchard have
done? No. It is clear his work was limited to re-interviewing the Park
Police. These are his primary sources. I am not even psychic and I could
have predicted what they would have told him.
Also, Moldea’s technique for putting his book together is among the
laziest ones a journalist can employ. He apparently assembled all of the
news clippings, articles, press releases, government reports in a massive,
chronologically ordered stack and began turning pages as he tapped the
unfolding details into his word processor. Each paragraph begins as if you
might be reading an almanac version of history: “In its Thursday edition,
New York Times reporter … quoted in that story … also on Thursday …
Safire concludes … On August 12. …” Page after 445 pages of such
The book could easily be written off as a high-school term paper gone
amok, but it does have a mission. One salient one is to undermine
Christopher Ruddy’s credibility and secondarily, Evans-Pritchard’s. Moldea
is good at identifying some of Ruddy’s “mistakes.” He writes that Ruddy
made erroneous claims, reporting statements that the Park Police had not
conducted a metal detector search for a bullet at the Foster death site or
dusted Foster’s car for prints when they had done so. Had Moldea bothered
to interview Ruddy about this, he would have learned that Ruddy received
this information from the Park Police’s spokesman. Only when Ruddy
published these claims did the Park Police do a u-turn, change their story
and claim they had, in fact, engaged in these procedures. Is it Ruddy’s
mistake that he accurately reported what an official government spokesman
Clearly it wasn’t. Another “truly bad mistake” Moldea claims Ruddy made
when writing for the New York Post. Moldea said Ruddy reported the Park
Police had not taken any crime scene photos and that this was wrong.
Actually, if Moldea had bothered to read the Post story, Ruddy did not
report no photos were taken. He did report that the police did not have any
“crucial” crime scene photo of the whole body and the whole death scene.
Taking such a photo is basic and elemental and despite Moldea’s diatribe
against Ruddy over this, the truth is that all of the 35mm film the Park
Police took was destroyed and is now missing. Also, two-thirds of the
Polaroids have vanished. All the public is left with are a handful of
By reading Moldea’s dishonest account, you would get the impression the
Park Police handled everything just fine.
Moldea’s account of the photos demonstrates not only his dishonesty but
his malice. Ruddy addressed this issue in his book and Moldea could have
easily cited from this to give a balanced account. He could also have
interviewed Ruddy about this. Interestingly, Pritchard also wrote about the
“crime scene photo” issue, Ruddy and how ABC News, like Moldea, tried to
twist the facts to discredit Ruddy. But Moldea didn’t bother interviewing
Ruddy, or Evans-Pritchard. Why should he? He had the Park Police to tell
him what happened.
No mention is made of the strange way the Park Police handled this case.
Why did they determine Foster’s death a suicide before any detective looked
at the body? Where have all the crime scene photos gone? The X-rays? Why no
proper crime scene diagram? Why did the Park Police turn over critical
crime scene evidence to the White House, such as Foster’s beeper, within
hours of his death, contravening all police procedure? Why did the police
wait two days to get into Foster’s office? How come the police botched
every critical aspect of the case?
You won’t find these questions, let alone answers, in Moldea’s book. If
Moldea’s book was just simply an exposition of the facts of the case,
rather than an analysis, it was an awfully selective one. Take for instance
Moldea’s reference to writer Philip Weiss. Moldea correctly notes that
Weiss wrote a piece for the New York Times Sunday magazine entitled “The
Clinton Haters,” which mentioned Evans-Pritchard and Ruddy.
Conveniently, Moldea omits any positive mention of Ruddy from Weiss’
piece. Weiss referred to Ruddy as the “Woodward and Bernstein” of the
Clinton scandals. Stunningly, Moldea just simply ignores Weiss’ follow-up
columns for the New York Observer on the Foster case, which go into great
depth on the subject. In those columns, Weiss, who unlike Moldea, actually
went out and checked Ruddy’s sources in Arkansas and Washington, determined
that his reporting was “honest” and that he had “put other reporters to
Weiss is a professed liberal, but one with integrity. Moldea describes
himself as a “pro cop liberal.” This is interesting. Journalists shouldn’t
be pro- or anti-cop, they should be pro-truth. As a practical matter, it
happens to be helpful to be “pro-cop” when writing stories involving the
police, as their help can be invaluable in completing a story or getting a
book contract. Unfortunately truth and justice are often victims when a
journalist has to sell his impartiality. We can see that in Moldea’s case.
Perhaps the only revelatory thing is Moldea’s book is how Mike Wallace
and “60 Minutes” set-up Ruddy for a feature they did in 1995. Moldea faults
Wallace for hatchet journalism. I know something about this, because it was
Mike Wallace’s producer who called me, heaping praise on the Western
Journalism Center and Ruddy for pursuing this story against all the odds.
It was a lie. Interestingly, when I met Moldea, he made a similar approach.
In two brief conversations Ruddy had with Moldea, Ruddy recounts that
Moldea’s praise was effusive, describing him repeatedly as a “hero.”
Though media dishonesty is nothing new, like Wallace, Moldea has raised
to an art level the journalistic con job. The tragedy is that this book
represents one more nail in the coffin of the truth about a terrible abuse
of power that has taken place in the Foster case.