A Spin Doctor Responds

Following our story reporting allegations that top Republican consultant Don Sipple had beaten his two ex-wives ("The True Character of a Spin Doctor?" September/October), several notable events occurred. First, Sipple resigned from Vito Fossella's New York congressional race after pressure from New York Democrats. Then Texas Gov. George W. Bush, a former client, said he would reconsider whether to use Sipple in the future, saying, "This is something I'm taking very seriously." Finally, longtime client Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) announced he would not use Sipple for his 1998 campaign.

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Sipple responded to the article by filing a $12.6 million libel suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against reporter Richard Blow and Mother Jones, charging that the abuse allegations are "false and defamatory." Mother Jones, meanwhile, stands by the story. After it was published, both of Sipple's ex-wives issued statements supporting the accuracy of the article. [Editor's Note: Judge threw out Sipple's suit against MJ on October 30.]

The article has also sparked considerable press attention, including favorable reactions from some conservatives (e.g., Arianna Huffington) and, not surprisingly, less-than-favorable reviews from Sipple's fellow political consultants. Here's a sampling:

"So we have Sipple, a moral cripple, choosing what issues matter most and 'intuiting' our concerns. And then we wonder why voters are cynical and leadership absent."
-- Arianna Huffington, in her syndicated column

"Trust me, I was no angel in my private life. But does that say anything about the candidates who hired me?"
-- Democratic consultant James Carville, in a column for Salon

"Political consultants have become the paparazzi of modern American politics. They pursue candidates.... They commission negative opposition research reports to dig up every sin, major and minor, that the candidates have ever committed. And I think, frankly, this is just a little bit of justice."
-- University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, on CNN's "Inside Politics"

"[The allegations were] a surprise. You know, in my business with Don Sipple, he was just a very quiet, mild-mannered guy."
-- former Sipple client Bob Dole, on CNN's "Inside Politics"

"A consultant has a responsibility in each individual relationship with the candidate for whom they're working to recognize if there's anything in their history that will potentially hurt their candidate, and be honest about that."
-- Democratic strategist Kiki Moore, on CNBC's "Hardball"

"It is fair game if you have a past that is flamboyant, or strange, or abhorrent."
-- Republican consultant Jim Innocenzi, on Fox News' "Fox on Politics"

"I think the problem is that when Don Sipple was doing Dole's campaign none of this came out. It was after the fact, and obviously someone went out to get him."
-- GOP consultant Ed Rollins, on CNN's "Crossfire"

"Don Sipple's not on the ballot anywhere. Don Sipple's not running for anything. Don Sipple is a salesman."
-- Republican consultant Alex Castellanos, on CNBC's "Hardball"

"We have this genre now...of the political consultant and/or pollster to the president -- who is in effect a member of the staff -- giving him all sorts of substantive advice, and yet there's no accountability."
-- Political journalist Elizabeth Drew on CNN's "Inside Politics"

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