Carville Hoax Retracted
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 22, 1999; Page C7
A radio network yesterday retracted a bogus story about James Carville beating his wife that has bounced around the Internet and sparked dozens of media inquiries and calls from concerned friends.
The false story was strikingly specific, saying that the president's friend and adviser had fired off a semiautomatic pistol, wielded an oversize hunting knife and spent the night in a Montgomery County jail.
The phony report was aired by American Family Radio, a conservative network run by a Christian activist that reaches 25 states. The network says it got the news from a publication called the "Montgomery County Ledger" – which does not appear to exist – that was posted on an anti-Clinton site on the Internet. A man claiming to be a police officer called The Washington Post and WJLA-TV with the same information yesterday but would not give his name or number.
Among the gaping holes in the story: The incident was said to have taken place at Carville's home in Rockville; Carville and his wife, Mary Matalin, live in Virginia. And it supposedly happened Monday, when Carville was giving speeches in Phoenix and Nashville.
"It's the politics of personal destruction, I guess," said Carville. "I'm not sure I could find Rockville."
Matalin said their office has been deluged by calls from friends and reporters. "I'm very upset anyone could even remotely consider this a possibility," she said. "He is a dream husband. I had no idea it is as far-flung as it is. People are all getting it off the Internet. It's flying through the e-mails. They're calling in and they are concerned. The phones are ringing off the hook." Carville has asked his attorney to try to find the source of the story.
Ann Evans, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County police, said she had received at least 10 inquiries about Carville from journalists from as far away as Boston and Phoenix. "He was not arrested, at least in Montgomery County, Maryland," she said. "Everyone's trying to track down where this is coming from."
American Family Radio is an arm of the American Family Association, headed by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, a prominent Christian activist. The organization's Web site encourages people to contact Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and urge him to hold a full impeachment trial of Clinton. The network is carried on stations from Grants Pass, Ore., to Manchester, N.H., to Culpeper, Va.
Marvin Sanders, the network's general manager, said American Family Radio "made an immediate retraction" after learning that the report "was a hoax." He said the network's story, which was posted on its Web site, was based on the "Montgomery County Ledger" article, which he found "very well written, very detailed, very newsy." Sanders would not say how the station got the article.
The "Ledger" piece was posted in an Internet discussion group called alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater. The story cites "Rockville Police Lt. Bobby Masters"; police spokeswoman Evans says there is no such person. The article also quotes a fictional attorney for Carville.
One poster on the Whitewater site said he had checked with the Rockville police and learned that the story was untrue.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company