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Gerth, Jeff

Gerth, Jeff

PERSONAL:

Male.

CAREER:

Journalist. New York Times, New York, NY, investigative reporter.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pulitzer Prize (with others), Columbia University, 1999, for reporting on American technology transfers to China.

WRITINGS:

(With Don Van Natta, Jr.) Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jeff Gerth is a journalist. He has worked as an investigative reporter with the New York Times since the early 1980s. In 1999, he was part of a team from the New York Times that was awarded a Pu- litzer Prize for their coverage of American technology transfers to China. Gerth also broke the Whitewater story during Bill Clinton's presidency.

Gerth published his first book, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, in 2007 with Don Van Natta, Jr. The biography covers Hillary Clinton, the New York Democratic Senator, wife of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and 2008 presidential aspirant. The account focuses primarily on her political years, from her activist days at Wellesley College through her First Lady days in Little Rock, Arkansas, then Washington, DC, to her Senate tenure and 2008 presidential run.

A contributor to the California Bookwatch remarked that the result of hundreds of interviews for the biography "debunks many commonly accepted myths about Clinton." Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper pointed out that, compared to other biographies on Clinton published around this time, this one is "far inferior." Cooper mentioned that the authors note in the final pages that Clinton "has strength of will, but their tone, and most of what comes before, makes even this seem like an undesirable characteristic."

Jennifer Senior, writing in the New York Times, described the authors as "extremely well-respected journalists," but noted that they "go off the rails at the moments their grand unified theories can't quite accommodate the facts" and also "practically narcotize readers when they descend into rote recapitulations of the Clinton scandals." Senior thought that "Gerth and Van Natta are more apt to treat the former first lady as a supercomputer—unfeeling and cool to the touch, mutely calculating in binary code" compared to other biographies on her. Senior brought up the fact that both Gerth and Van Natta reported heavily on the Clinton scandals in the 1990s and also remarked that the authors point out that Clinton's denial of her mistakes bring her trouble. However, Senior claims that the authors' attempt to discuss Clinton's "secrecy and defensiveness" goes without enough testimonials from those who may have witnessed it. Senior goes on to compare the book to that of one written by journalist Carl Bernstein, which features far more insights into who the senator is and was while growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois. Senior concludes that, "one suspects if they'd gone any deeper, what they might have found would have interfered with their thesis: that Bill and Hillary Clinton hatched a plan more than thirty years ago to revolutionize the Democratic Party and occupy the White House." Senior summarized that the biography spends too much time bringing up small inconsistencies and offenses and "even when the authors report on something far more momentous—that Hillary most likely never read the classified intelligence reports about Iraq—they are forced to concede that only six senators, according to news reports, did," concluding that "this is the stuff, ultimately, of magazine and news articles, not a 438-page biography."

Peter Baker and John Solomon, writing in the Washington Post, found that "Gerth and Van Natta portray Clinton as fixated on secrecy and loyalty. She has used her Washington house as a staging ground for her presidential campaign, holding strategy meetings and fundraisers under strict confidentiality." Jesse Gordon, writing for OnTheIssues.org, remarked that Gerth and Van Natta "are critical where they find evidence worthy of criticism; but they also praise Hillary when they find evidence worthy of praise. Overall, this is a reasonably balanced book—not authorized by Hillary, but certainly not a book she would be ashamed of." Joe Conason, reviewing the book for Salon.com, found that the authors do not reproduce "the nasty, demeaning portrait that became so familiar in right-wing propaganda and mainstream journalism during her husband's presidency. Striving for an impression of fairness, these authors nod to Clinton's strengths, including her prodigious capacity for work, her studious approach to public service, her surprising enthusiasm for reaching across the partisan aisle, and her determination to protect her family." Conason remarked that the biography is not "committed completely to the negative caricature, but there is enough of that kind of material—and enough poorly founded speculation—to excite the likes of Dick Morris and Matt Drudge," adding that Gerth and Van Natta cannot "quite resist the pull of the old fables, although they make gestures toward a more complete and humanized narrative." Conason opined that what is missing from this biography "is a sufficient appreciation for the political context of Bill and Hillary Clinton's first appearance on the national stage. Rising from obscurity and entering the White House in an era of conservative domination, they were forced to wage guerrilla warfare: sometimes losing, sometimes winning and, despite all their mistakes, notching achievements that look better and better in contrast to the disasters of the Bush years."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Lawyer, August, 2007, Scott Horton, review of Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 138.

Booklist, July 1, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Her Way, p. 4.

Buffalo News, June 5, 2007, "Can Hillary Get Real?"

California Bookwatch, August, 2007, review of Her Way.

Daily News, October 20, 2000, "Daily News, New York, Media Column."

Hollywood Reporter, December 19, 2003, "Zipped Lips," p. 8.

Houston Chronicle, June 10, 2007, "Dragon Lady or Diplomat? Which Version of Hillary Clinton Would Be President? Dueling Biographies Take on a Complicated Woman," p. 21.

Media Matters for America, May, 2007, Eric Boehlert, "Jeff Gerth, Meet Judith Miller"; May 24, 2007, "Peers Have Criticized Clinton Bio Co-Author Jeff Gerth for Flawed Reporting"; October 16, 2007, "The Hill Uncritically Reported Gerth's False Claim That ‘There Hasn't Been One Fact in’ Her Way ‘That's Been Challenged.’"

New York Daily News, October 19, 2000, "Newspaper Denies Pulling Reporters from Chinese Spy Story."

New York Law Journal, July 27, 2007, Harold Reynolds, review of Her Way.

New York Times, March 1, 1982, "4 Times Reporters Win Polk Awards: Citations in Journalism for 12 Categories Announced by Long Island University," p. 11; July 1, 1983, "Of Laser Weapons and Dr. Teller's Stock," p. 22; December 13, 1995, "Facing Trial, Arkansas Governor Requests Times Reporter's Notes"; August 19, 2004, "Five Reporters Are Found in Contempt over Sources," p. 26; June 29, 2005, "Judges Affirm Decision That Found 4 Reporters in Contempt," p. 16; June 5, 2007, "Shining a Halogen Light on a Senator's Dark Corners," p. 1; July 15, 2007, Jennifer Senior, review of Her Way.

Talk of the Nation, June 13, 2007, "‘Her Way’ Takes New Approach to Clinton Story."

Wall Street Journal, February 6, 1989, "Gerth, Safire and Anonymous," p. 8.

Washington Post, May 25, 2007, Peter Baker and John Solomon, review of Her Way, p. A01.

White House Weekly, January 2, 2001, "Reporter's Notebook," p. 5.

ONLINE

OnTheIssues.org,http://www.ontheissues.org/ (April 2, 2008), Jesse Gordon, review of Her Way.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (June 4, 2007), Joe Conason, review of Her Way.

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