Sunday, April 09, 2006

The real target of the Page Six scandal

The Page Six scandal is not going away soon.

So let’s start with the most obvious question: Why did this California billionaire set up a lowly New York Post gossip freelancer in a federal sting over gossip items?

The target here is Rupert Murdoch, right?

It's interesting that this extortion case concerns little stories that, in Ron Burkle’s case at least, didn’t effect his bottom line or social standing beyond accusing him of being a skirt-chaser. And neither Page Six nor the New York Post is the source of Murdoch’s power.

Fox News is.

Interesting that in today's New York Times, the alleged extortionist, eccentric freelancer Jared Paul Stern, seems pretty nonchalant about the charges:

"I can't defend my lack of judgment here," he said. Still, Mr. Stern maintained that he had not been trying to use his position at Page Six for extortion. He said he had approached Mr. Burkle both to discuss investing in a clothing company Mr. Stern had started and to offer his services as a media strategist. He said Mr. Burkle was the one who first brought up the subject of payments for protection.

“He said Mr. Burkle was the one who first brought up the subject of payments for protection.”

The Times reports on viewing a section of the sting video: The moment is captured on a heavily edited version of a secretly recorded video of the meeting. It was provided to The New York Times by a person who had a copy of the entire recording, which was made by Mr. Burkle's security team with the aid of a private investigation company. The edited version contains only six minutes of roughly three hours of conversations...

At one point, the discussion was reduced to a bald question. The billionaire, Ronald W. Burkle, asked: "How much — how much do you want?" Mr. Stern paused for close to 15 seconds, shifting uncomfortably in his chair, holding his head in his hands at one point. Then, haltingly, he answered: "Ahhh, I think, like, you know, a hundred thousand to get going, and then we can do something like, month to month, like say, ten thousand."

Interesting that the scandal just happens to break as Page Six editor Richard Johnson leaves town to get married, possibly at Page Six mainstay Donald Trump’s spread.

Johnson, his staff, and possibly Post editor Col Allan, will most likely take the hit here. But this promises to go deeper as the first strike in a major offensive against Murdoch's influence and organization.

In fact, it's all promising to be even bigger than the revelation that George Clooney had signed a deal with Paramount Television promising cooperation with Entertainment Tonight as long as they kept him off Hard Copy. And we hear that the ethical questions raised by the Page Six flap will spread beyond newspapers to TV infotainment shows that shovel most of the flak-fed celebrity gossip to most of America.

Stay tuned here for the latest.

1 comment:

KateCOe said...

I love juicy conspiracy.