Eichenwald Saga Keeps Getting Curiouser and Curiouser
Kurt Eichenwald didn't play by the book when he wrote for The New York Times in 2005 about efforts to save a boy who was being victimized by pedophiles who paid to watch him commit sex acts online.
The searing, expose ran nearly 7,000 words, and included a chronicle of Eichenwald's efforts to help Justin Berry find a lawyer, meet with prosecutors and get him badly needed counseling.
Eichenwald was criticized in some quarters for stepping over that imaginary line of involvement with a source that reporters dare not cross. But this was a special circumstance, the Times recognized it as such. Thus emerged a remarkable and troubling story.
The real trouble, though, emerged when it was revealed Eichenwald actually paid Berry $2,000 -- which he said was actually a loan that he demanded be repaid and was by Berry's grandmother.
Still, it gave the appearance of paying a source -- a big-time no-no, though Eichenwald has vehemently denied he did anything wrong.
Now comes word that Eichenwald may have paid additional money to Berry and a man who ran the Web site where Berry appeared.
Richard Perez-Pena reports in today's Times that as much as $1,100 more was put into a PayPal account controlled by Berry.
“I have no independent memory of any payments I am alleged to have made in June 2005 through PayPal,” he said in a statement yesterday. “If these PayPal payments did occur in June 2005, I am deeply sorry that my inability to remember them has resulted in permitting a series of convicted felons to cast doubt on the nature of my wife’s and my efforts to save a young man who was caught in the grip of a cycle of drugs and abuse.”
Eichenwald, who now works at Portfolio, is referring to his contention that the initial $2,000 payment was made not as a reporter but as a person worried that Berry was in danger.
The statement to the Times is all well and good. What's more troubling is the weasel words "independent memory."
What the hell is that, anyway?
In any event, why would it be so hard to remember making an additional payment to Berry. Giving the boy cash was ostensibly not a regular occurrence, so you'd think it'd be pretty easy to recall that happening.
You want to root for Eichenwald because he wrote such a good story that, ethical lapses aside, was a gripping yarn that deserves acclaim. But he just doesn't make it easy.