Charlie Gasparino’s new book is called King of the Club—a reference to its ostensible subject, Dick Grasso, who oversaw the triumphant comeback of New York Stock Exchange in the challenging days following the September 11th attacks but quickly found himself forced out and under fire from New York State’s Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer.
But reading the book makes it increasingly obvious that Spitzer himself could be called King of the Club for the brutal ways he treated the subjects of his investigations. Yesterday Page Six detailed one example of how Spitzer’s team attempted to pursue allegations of an extra-marital affair, presumably to embarrass Grasso or lure him into a perjury trap if he denied the allegations. But Gasparino’s book reveals that it didn’t stop there—indeed, this seems to have become standard operating procedure for Spitzer’s club.
[More on Spitzer's smear machine after the jump.]
During the investigation into Grasso, Grasso’s personal assistant Soojee Lee was subject to questions. Contemporary press accounts reveal that sources familiar with the investigation were leaking information about Lee’s statements to reporters at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. At least some of these sources appear to have been members of Spitzer’s squad. A New York Times report by Landon Thomas says that “lawyers close to the investigation” described Lee as “reticent about her boss.”
But that wasn’t all Spitzer’s team was telling the press. According to Gasparino, aides to Spitzer alleged to him that Grasso was having an affair with Lee.
“Everyone knows Grasso is boning Soojee,” the aide said, according to Gasparino.
Probably to avoid legal liability—or perhaps out of a journalistic instinct to protect his source—Gasparino doesn’t name who exactly said it. But it is hardly out of character for Spitzer’s team to club their targets with anonymous smears. A New York Times story from this July told the tale of how Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp would orchestrate press coverage from behind the scenes. According to the Times, “more than a few reporters were enticed by breathy whispers from Darren Dopp.”
In fact, we know Dopp leaked to Gasparino—until he “cut off” Gasparino for not towing the Spitzer line on the NYSE investigation—because Gasparino said as much in an article that ran this past July in the New York Post. At the end of that article, in which Gasparino details some of the ways Spitzer’s club fights dirty, Gasparino says that at one point he was interviewing Spitzer about an investigation into a “well-known Wall Street executive” when Dopp interrupted to say that “everyone knew that the executive ‘was boning’ his secretary."
Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we have our man!
That kind of whispering gives new meaning to the phrase “talk softly and carry a big stick.” Or club, as it were.