Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Vincent Foster

The Smell of Money

Jerry Falwell
Jerry Falwell

If nothing else, there was money to be made by spinning nefarious plots to kill Vincent Foster. Book contracts and other packaging of Foster "investigations" were hawked through conservative talk radio and by televangelists such as Jerry Falwell, who promoted a video called "The Clinton Chronicles," which, Moldea wrote, "contains thinly veiled charges that President Clinton had been knowingly involved in a series of murders, some of which appeared as suicides."

Video cover:  The Clinton Chronicles
Video cover: The Clinton Chronicles

According to a Columbia Journalism Review assessment of some of the Foster media coverage, Ruddy's work was packaged in a compilation of his stories, "The Ruddy Investigation," which sold for $12, and a forty-minute video, "Unanswered — The Death of Vincent Foster." Ruddy helped produce the video, which sold for $35 each.

Much of the reporting by the conservative media on Vincent Foster can be traced to Richard Mellon Scaife, the wealthy heir to the Mellon banking fortune. His newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, hired Christopher Ruddy after he left the New York Post. The efforts to cast Foster's death as something more than a suicide coincided with Scaife's funding of the "Arkansas Project," a $1.8 million program Scaife funded at the conservative magazine The American Spectator to unearth damaging information on the Clintons, according to the New York Times. The billionaire also contributed large sums over the years to conservative media organizations like the Western Journalism Center, Accuracy in Media and the National Taxpayers Union, all of which drove highly negative coverage in the Foster case. The Western Journalism Center doubled its revenue every year from 1994 to 1996, with about half of its $500,000 in 1995 coming from the sale of Foster material, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. The group bought ads in major newspapers in 1995 highlighting Ruddy's work with sales information on his book and video.

Richard Mellon Scaife
Richard Mellon Scaife

Asked by the New York Times about his devotion to the Foster suicide, Scaife said, "The death of Vincent Foster: I think that's the Rosetta Stone to the whole Clinton administration. There are just too many questions that have no answers."

A major fault in Ruddy and others' investigations, though, are the lack of any plausible alternative scenario as to how Foster met his end. Ruddy completely skirts the issue in his book, taking until page 254 to say, "The authorities may be fully aware that there is much more to the case — that it may have been murder or that a cover-up took place — but instead of bringing this out, the authorities feel, for various compelling reasons, that the matter can never be revealed." After an exhaustive picking apart of witness testimony and evidence, some of which has been proven to be wrong on Ruddy's part, this is all he can muster as the dark alternative to Foster's suicide?

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