Lloyd Grove Column Spotlights Huffington-Russert Feud

By: E&P Staff

Arianna Huffington regularly criticizes “Meet the Press” commentator Tim Russert for being too deferential to the powerful. NBC News has finally responded, according to Friday’s “Lowdown” column by Lloyd Grove.

On Thursday, wrote the New York Daily News/Copley News Service columnist, “the entire NBC News publicity machine went ballistic on the impresario of HuffingtonPost.com.” Grove reported receiving an e-mail from NBC News “flack” Barbara Levin stating that “the last time we heard from Ms. Huffington, she was hiring private eyes to investigate reporters.” Grove said this “resurrect(ed) an old charge that Huffington has repeatedly denied, including personally to Russert in 1996.”

The Daily News writer continued: “Tempers at NBC flared this week when Huffington skewered Russert’s ethics for using his prestigious Sunday morning policy-and-politics program to hype his 19-year-old son Luke’s sports-talk radio show — on which the Boston College sophomore will be paired with frequent ‘Meet the Press’ panelist James Carville. ‘With anyone I know?’ Russert coyly asked Carville on last Sunday’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘Maybe you would be familiar with someone I’ll be teaming up in this,’ Carville responded, even more coyly.”

Grove said Huffington — who does a Tribune Media Services column in addition to writing for The Huffington Post group blog/Web site — “also derided Russert’s scheduled keynote speaking gig next week at a journalistic ethics conference at Ripon (Wis.) College. She wondered if Russert will receive his standard $50,000-$60,000 fee along with first-class airfare for two — although, she wrote yesterday, ‘according to [Russert’s lecture agent] … private planes are strongly preferred.'”

Levin, added Grove, “wouldn’t answer my money question, but assured me that ‘all of Tim’s limited speaking engagements are approved by NBC management.'”

According to Grove, “Huffington scoffed: ‘Inviting Tim Russert to keynote a conference on journalistic ethics is like having Jack Abramoff keynote a conference on lobbying reform.'”

Grove continued: “To support the private-eye allegation, Levin faxed me a passage from Republican political consultant Ed Rollins’ memoir, ‘Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms,’ in which he claims Huffington sicced a detective on Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth — Russert’s wife — during her then-husband Michael Huffington’s 1994 California Senate campaign.”

Huffington told Grove: “Everything Rollins is saying is a fabrication, and I have said that many, many times.”

Grove disclosed in Friday’s column that “I’ve been friendly with Huffington for years, and Russert has barely spoken to me since I profiled him 17 years ago in The Washington Post.”

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