Last week, I repeatedly contacted staffers working for Congressman Ric Keller of Florida, by phone and email, to ask them for comment for a story I was working on. In the e-mails, I asked a number of very specific questions:
- Had Congressman Keller, who won office in 2000 as a fierce champion of family values and morality, had an affair with a young congressional staffer (whom he later married) while he was wed to his first wife?
- What were the purposes of several trips Keller took with the staffer when she was on his congressional payroll?
- Why had Keller used campaign funds to pay the staffer a $1,000 year-end bonus in 2002, just after he’d traveled with her and just prior to separating from his then-wife?
- Did the Congressman help the staffer get a job at his political fundraising firm?
After waiting three days and getting no reply, I published the story and said that Keller’s office had declined to reply to requests for comment.
Now, though, Keller has responded to two stories by the Orlando Sentinel, which asked him about my account. In one, his staff said my piece was “loaded with fiction.” In another, Keller issued a statement that said, “Regrettably, one out of two marriages in this country end in divorce, and my first marriage didn’t work out . . . Any rumor or innuendo that there’s anything more to it is false and a cheap political stunt.” He called me a “discredited gossip blogger who just last week posted another false rumor accusing Hillary Clinton of having a lesbian affair with one of her staffers” and criticized me for using unnamed sources “with no personal knowledge of the situation” who alleged he’d had an affair. The statement, too, said my piece was “loaded with fiction.”
Yes, I posted two items  about the rumor that Hillary is having an affair with her staffer. As I wrote, it’s an idiotic, meritless rumor that people in other political camps are seeking to put forth in order to raise doubts about Clinton. But Keller ignored the substance of those articles, deciding to attack and smear the messenger instead of addressing the questions raised.
I didn’t report on Keller’s affair with the staffer on the basis of rumors, but on numerous interviews and by careful review of public records that turned out to square with what I was told. Only after much cautious research did I decide to write this story.
Keller says it’s all fiction, but doesn’t specify what’s false. Did he travel with the staffer? Did he pay her a $1,000 year-end bonus? How did she get the job with the fundraising firm, and what was her role and pay arrangement there? Is she still working at the firm, as was reported on his last financial disclosure report? These issues and others were simply unaddressed in the congressman’s reply.