#tbt: Blumenthal v. Drudge

From one kind of trial to another.

Of all the obsessions within obsessions from today’s Benghazi hearing, the time spent on Hillary Clinton‘s epistolary relationship with Sidney Blumenthal might be the most peculiar. At least for those that aren’t students of Clinton-era partisan history.

The Right’s beef with Blumenthal is long and deep. If you want to understand the whole sweep of the thing, Vox has a comprehensive explainer for you. We’re throwing it back to just one piece of political theatre: Blumenthal v. Drudge.

The year is 1997. The place: Washington, D.C. The case: a defamation lawsuit Sidney Blumenthal and his wife, Jacqueline Jordan Blumenthal, have filed against Matt Drudge. The damage: $30 million.

The case revolves around an item Druge wrote–and later retracted–on Drudge Report in August 1997, claiming Blumenthal abused his wife:

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that top GOP operatives who feel there is a double-standard of only reporting republican shame believe they are holding an ace card: New White House recruit Sidney Blumenthal has a spousal abuse past that has been effectively covered up.

The accusations are explosive.

There are court records of Blumenthal’s violence against his wife, one influential republican, who demanded anonymity, tells the DRUDGE REPORT.

If they begin to use [Don] Sipple and his problems against us, against the Republican Party. . . to show hypocrisy, Blumenthal would become fair game. Wasn’t it Clinton who signed the Violence Against Women Act?

There goes the budget deal honeymoon.]

One White House source, also requesting anonymity, says the Blumenthal wife-beating allegation is a pure fiction that has been created by Clinton enemies. [The First Lady] would not have brought him in if he had this in his background, assures the well-placed staffer. This story about Blumenthal has been in circulation for years.

Last month President Clinton named Sidney Blumenthal an Assistant to the President as part of the Communications Team. He’s brought in to work on communications strategy, special projects themeing — a newly created position.

Every attempt to reach Blumenthal proved unsuccessful.

The verdict: With no evidence to show Drudge’s accusations were true, and with a retraction from Drudge himself, the case was settled in 2001 by way of a voluntary dismissal, and with Blumenthal paying Drudge $2,500 in lawyer’s fees. The explanation from Blumenthal, as depicted in the New York Times:

The payment, Mr. Blumenthal said, is to ensure that the litigation and the publicity it brought Mr. Drudge come to an end.

“We just decided for nuisance value that we would pay him off and make him go away and deprive him of his sort of oxygen,” Mr. Blumenthal said.