Concerning that Portland massage therapist's "crazed sex poodle" accusations against former Vice President Al Gore, my esteemed colleague Byron York observes that "the police report of the masseuse's complaint is 73 pages long and extremely detailed."
It is certainly that and a plentiful supply of details is almost always a solid indicator of reliability. But not always. In statistics, for example, an excessive precision is considered a red flag that somebody may be trying to pull a fast one.
This is why in the Heritage Foundation's Database 101 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting Boot Camps that I've helped teach for many years at the National Press Club, we warn attendees to be on the lookout for this tactic when evaluating the credibility of data-based claims by those seeking to influence public policy and policymakers.
If somebody tells you that their data-driven study "proves" Conclusion A or disproves Conclusion B because it has a correlation factor of .785458903455, that's a warning to be careful, as it suggests they may be trying to create an impression of accuracy rather than to provide a credible statistical analysis.
Similarly with the Portland masseuse's complaint, both in reading the report and listening to portions of the audio of it, I am struck by the extremely clinical, detailed manner of its author's reporting.
Consider just this passage from the masseuse's police report:
"I verbally clarified for him that I was required by the state board of massage of Oregon that I am licensed by to verbally do a brief review of his health history with him before the massage commenced. During that time, I also had the opportunity to review with him just what were his areas of physical distress or what he wanted the massage session to focus on, as I do with all massage clients as per standards of professional massage.
"He described a grueling travel schedule over the previous week or two, mostly by air, and he said he needed his gluteus, hamstring, quadreceps and abbductors worked on, as well as his abdominal area besides his back and whole body. I inquired if this was due to the long flight hours and he said yes.
"I mentally noted that a request for abbductor work is a bit unusual. In the massage world, sometimes but rarely is said to be that it's a precursor to inappropriate behavior by a male client, but it's not necessarily out of the range of professional treatment."
"Verbally clarified"? "Before the massage commenced"? Seems rather clinical and stilted, no? Let's not forget that three years went by between the alleged encounter and the composition of the report.
Usually time is the enemy of detail. But, as any good story teller will attest, time can also "enhance" memory with details that make for a more interesting, though not necessarily more accurate, story.
Lest anybody think I am some sort of closet Gore defender lurking within the journalistic ranks of the conservative movement, believe me, I am not. Whenever I think of Gore, the first scene that comes to my mind is not his ludicrous sigh during his 2000 presidential campaign debates with George W. Bush, or when he sidled up so close that he was almost literally breathing down his opponent's neck.
No, I think of that infamous 1995 news conference in which the then-sitting Vice President of the United States admitted making campaign fund raising telephone calls on federal property.
Federal law proscribes such activities on federal property, but nothing here to worry about, Gore told a bunch of disbelieving reporters because "there is no controlling legal authority." And he said that magical phrase over and over and over.
Frankly, ever since that revolting display, Gore has personified in my mind most of what is wrong with career politicians in both parties.
So trust me when I say no tears would roll down my cheeks if the Portland masseuse is found to be totally truthful and the former veep's public career is thus terminated in abject shame and disgust.
But my journalistic gut still tells me that folks should be careful about rushing to judgement on this one because there may be much more to the story than we know at this point.
UPDATE: But on the other hand ...
Byron responds to the above observations here and in the process corrects my statement that three years elapsed between the alleged incident and the writing of the police report. Looks like it was closer to two years. Also, I added the link to the audio version of the accuser's report, which I neglected to include in the original post.
One additional point I mean to discuss above but didn't is the paucity of response from Gore himself. His attorney and "sources close to the Gores" have been quoted, but not the man himself. That may or may not be significant.
UPDATE II: No, Tapscott, you got it wrong
My friend Amy Ridenour takes a look at Byron's column, my post, Byron's response to my post, then offers her own assessment of who is more likely to be on the money in this long-distance assessment of the Gore accuser. Her conclusion is that Byron is right, I am wrong.