IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE DEFINITION OF "OWNS" IS
As you may know, The National Enquirer is peddling a rumor that John Edwards has had an affair on the campaign trail. Various right-wing sleazebags (Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus) are pushing the story and wondering why the mainstream press isn't picking up on it (for a roundup of all this, go here).
Now the Politico, Matt Drudge's favorite allegedly non-partisan political site, has a story hinting at a possible reason for the rumor's appearance in print. The story's title?
The Clintonite who owns National Enquirer
The headline isn't exactly accurate.
The story notes that Roger Altman is a Clinton backer and, in its third paragraph, calls him "a key owner of the Enquirer." Already he's gone from "owner" to "a key owner." Then, a couple of paragraphs further in, we get a bit closer to the truth:
The investment boutique which Altman founded and chairs, Evercore Partners, bought a controlling stake in American Media, which publishes the Enquirer, in 1999, which it still holds with a partner....
A spokesman for American Media, Richard Valvo, ... said that Evercore owns 20 percent of the company through an investment fund.
OK -- so now Evercore, Altman's "investment boutique," owns one fifth of the Enquirer. And how much of Evercore does Altman own? Well, in August 2006, Marketwatch.com told us that
Altman and [Austin] Beutner each own about 3.5 million shares, or 13% of the company....
So Altman owns 13% of a company that owns 20% of the Enquirer. According to my trusty calculator, that means his ownership stake in the Enquirer is a whopping 2.6%.
Oh, and as the Politico story also notes,
American Media has also published lurid and negative stories about the Clintons since its acquisition.
(Which is true.)
And we're told that Richard Valvo
said in an email that Altman has "no involvement in editorial, ever."
But the headline has done its job -- it's succeeded in stirring up talk of sinister Clintonian skulduggery on both the left and right.
And let's not forget that we've seen this kind of trick shot before. Remember the story that Barack Obama had attended a madrassa in Indonesia, which was followed in short order by right-wingers' claims that Hillary was behind the smear? I think this is the same kind of effort to kill two birds with one stone.