Tracie Miller sent this email after I tweeted the link to Salon’s piece about billionaire Romney donor Frank VanderSloot using threats to silence critics:
Thanks for passing along the link to Glenn Greenwald’s very gusty Salon.com story. I’m married to Dean Miller, the former Post Register editor, Greenwald mentions is the story. I can tell you from personal experience that VanderSloot, the Idaho billionaire, is a scary guy to get crosswise with. He will go after Greenwald, and Salon.com, with bluster and lawyers and vitriol. Greenwald knew that, and he still went ahead with the article. That’s pretty brave. He deserves credit for speaking truth to power.
I sent the email to Greenwald and Salon editor in chief Kerry Lauerman, along with a few questions about the story, concerns about repercussions, and what’s happened since its publication. Here’s Lauerman’s reply:
Glenn alerted me that he was preparing the piece the day before it ran, and considering VanderSloot’s track record — as explained in Glenn’s piece — we wanted to be particularly careful. We have a lawyer (James Chadwick, with Sheppard Mullin) who we consulted with for advice, and made sure we felt comfortable with all aspects of the piece before hitting the publish button.
But really, this is not dramatically different than how Glenn, or anyone at Salon, operates every day, we just only contact our lawyer on our more sensitive stories. Of course, a lot of reporters at smaller publications — much less independent bloggers — don’t have the luxury of consulting a lawyer, and surely feel much more vulnerable. And that’s the worst part of all this — the simple act of threatening a lawsuit often has a chilling effect.
I wasn’t worried about putting Salon at risk because I had full confidence in Glenn, and the content of the story. If we start worrying about publishing stories we believe are accurate, we’ve all really lost. But it makes all the difference to have a CEO (David Talbot) and management that fully supports and encourages us to be smart, careful, and fearless.
We have not, to my knowledge, heard from VanderSloot or his team.