Dowdunit: Columnist instigated personal hit on Clintons from “reluctant” Geffen

In an article for the March 5 edition of Newsweek about Maureen Dowd's controversial February 21 New York Times interview (subscription required) with Hollywood mogul David Geffen, a longtime donor to former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) who is supporting Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Evan Thomas reported that Dowd told the magazine, in Thomas' words, that during her interview with Geffen, “Geffen did not seem out to get the Clintons,” adding: “Dowd says Geffen was initially reluctant to be interviewed for her column. ... Dowd says she was the one who brought up questions about Bill Clinton's past as a campaign issue.”

Following their publication, Geffen's harsh personal comments on the Clintons have been the subject of countless media reports framed like the Newsweek piece, which carries the headline, “Fragged by an F.O.B. [Friend of Bill]” But that very same Newsweek piece went on to show that the circumstances surrounding the interview suggest it instead to apparently be little more than a proxy war waged by Dowd.

After goading Geffen, Dowd appears to have left out the fact that he was a source for a critical paragraph in the column, which she presented only as the negative views of other unnamed donors about the Clintons.

In her Times column, Dowd wrote:

Terry McAuliffe and First Groupie Bill have tried to hoard the best A.T.M. machine in politics for the Missus, but there's some Clinton fatigue among fatigued Clinton donors, who fret that Bill will “pull the focus” and shelve his wife's campaign.

But according to Newsweek, after Dowd “brought up questions” about Bill Clinton:

Geffen acknowledged that some big donors and celebrity Clinton supporters were fretting, as Dowd put it, “that Bill will 'pull the focus' and shelve his wife's campaign.”

Geffen also spoke to Newsweek, and he flatly contradicted both a key assertion Dowd quoted him making just a few days ago, as well as the wholly negative portrait of the Clintons Dowd painted from his comments. The lead Geffen quote in the Dowd column was, “Whoever is the nominee is going to win, so the stakes are very high.” But Geffen told Newsweek: “I think Bill Clinton is a great guy. ... I support them both. I just don't think she can be elected president.”