Thursday, September 16, 2004

An Unauthorized Interview with Kitty Kelly

Kitty Kelly and I sat down in a fashionable New York City restaurant (I will not disclose the name of the restaurant, but I will note that it was small, and cost $65 each to eat there), to talk about her newest book The Family. The interview is based on the notes I took ­ since we were in a restaurant, I didn't record the conversation, but I assure you that these are her words as I heard them.

Me: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding your new book on the Bush family.
Kelly: That seems to happen a lot with my books.
Me: Why do you suppose that is?
Kelly: Well, people are always questioning my sources. They say that I'm inflammatory. But the fact of the matter is that they are all just jealous.
Me: Jealous?
Kelly: Of my success. These books all sell for millions. They're all just jealous that I'm successful, that my books sell so well.
Me: Some would say that you dance on the edge of what can be proven just to sell books.
Kelly: No one can disprove anything I have claimed in any of my books. You can't prove that any of these things didn't happen. Ms. Bush can't prove she didn't tell me this President, when his father was President, snorted cocaine while he was at Camp David.
Me: It seems to me that it should have to be you who proves she did say it.
Kelly: Nonsense. See who has to prove what if she is foolish enough to try to sue me.
Me: Well, you raised the issue of whether or not this President Bush used cocaine ­ one of your more controversial claims in the book...
Kelly: Look, I didn't even need Ms. Bush's statement to know President Bush used cocaine.
Me: What do you mean?
Kelly: Can you keep a secret? This is off the record.
Me: Of course.
Kelly: Half the people I hang out with have snorted half the cocaine in Columbia. So I should know what cocaine users look like.
Me: So you can tell if someone is a cocaine user just by looking at them?
Kelly: It's like hanging out with gay people. After a while, you just know.
Me: Well, that seems a little...
Kelly: This is all off the record, right?
Me: Of course.
Kelly: Then don't worry about it. Just trust me, with all the people I know who have done cocaine ­ and it's a lot ­ I know a user when I see one.
Me: A lot, you say?
Kelly: Most of the people I go to parties with. Though if you talked to any of them, they would all be the first to insist we keep drugs illegal.
Me: Well, I'm still wondering about some of the sources in your book.
Kelly: I stand by everything I say in my book.
Me: But do you have proof?
Kelly: Proof? I gave you my proof. It's all in the book. I have more proof than CBS and Dan Rather have with those documents.
Me: You don't believe those documents are legitimate?
Kelly: I don't know if they are or not. It wouldn't surprise me if they are.
Me: Even though one of the people mentioned in the memos retired a year and a half before?
Kelly: That doesn't mean anything. Prove he wasn't hanging around after he retired, trying to influence his former colleagues.
Me: It seems the burden of proof should be on CBS.
Kelly: Not at all. The burden of proof ­ and all the court cases I have won shows this ­ is on others to prove that they didn't say what I claim they said, and it is on others to prove that the documents aren't legitimate. Why should CBS care?
Me: Because they are a news outlet. Shouldn't they care if they are reporting facts?
Kelly: Our job as reporters is to report anything we hear or receive. Fact-checking is for historians. Our job is to report.
Me: Are you supposed to report falsified documents as truth?
Kelly: What is truth? Truth is what we report. It is true if we say it's true.
Me: But what about the facts?
Kelly: What about them? They will take care of themselves. I'm not interested in facts.
Me: So you admit, then, that your book isn't based on fact?
Kelly: Can I speak to you off the record again?
Me: Of course.
Kelly: History books don't sell. History just says how things were. I'm interested in how things could or ought to be. My book isn't factual, it's true. It tells the truth of the Bush family.
Me: What truth, exactly, is that?
Kelly: Well, mine, of course.

At that moment, Kitty Kelly looked at her watch and pronounced that she had to go. I thanked her for her time, looked at my notes, and said, "Well, I'm afraid I really don't have anything here ­ not enough for an article, anyway." She glanced down at my notes. "Looks like plenty," she said. I shook my head. "Not with everything you wanted off the record," I said. She shrugged. Sorry I couldn't do any more for you," se said. I turned to watch her leave, then asked before she could escape out the door, "What do you suggest?" She glanced over her shoulder and said, "Just use the same sort of judgement I would use, and you'll go far." It made sense to me.