Arianna, Ed Rollins, and Private Detectives

So NBC is coming after Arianna, throwing out the old accusation that she once hired a private eye to investigate Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth.

Well, maybe NBC knows something I don't--but I doubt it. (Full disclosure: I know Arianna a little and blog for her website, not that I get paid for it.) After all, consider the source of that charge: a ten-year-old memoir by Republican political consultant Ed Rollins which has been discredited by one of its own ghostwriters.

Rollins' book, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms, came out in the fall of 1996.

At the time, I was an editor at George magazine. Shortly after the book was published, I got a call from a man named John B. Roberts II, who wanted to write a story for George. Roberts, a Republican consultant, told me that he'd helped research and ghostwrite two of Rollins' books. Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms, he said, was a bunch of B.S.

Roberts wrote his piece, which ran in the November 1996 issue of George.

Here's what he said: "Even by the standards of modern political memoirs, the extent to which Ed Rollins spins, inflates and falsifies material is grotesque. That's why I feel compelled to break a 15-year habit of covering Rollins' flanks. I've been sucker-punched into collaborating on a literary hoax."

Roberts then detailed several specific examples of situations where, he charged, Rollins had either exaggerated material or simply made it up. Why? "Partly to enhance his reputation, and partly to justify Bare Knuckles' reported $1 million advance."

Serious charges--but to the best of my knowledge, Rollins never disputed them (at least, not to us), and the magazine never ran a letter from Rollins or a correction. Roberts knew what he was writing about.

So it's a little strange that NBC is now using Rollins' book as the basis for a nasty accusation against Arianna...especially when all she's doing is raising a legitimate point about Tim Russert plugging his son's radio show.

NBC, if that's all you got, maybe you should quit while you're not too far behind.