Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other top Trump administration officials have swiftly denied authoring a New York Times op-ed attributed to a senior White House official claiming to be part of a “quiet resistance” against President Trump’s worst instincts.
History suggests you’d be naive to take their word at face value.
Look no further than the Wall Street Journal’s front page in June 1974, as speculation heightened that top FBI official Mark Felt may have been “Deep Throat,” a crucial source for Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. “I’m just not that kind of person,” Felt told the Journal.
Thirty-one years later, Felt told Vanity Fair: “I’m the guy they called Deep Throat.”
Felt had, needless to say, lied to the American public for decades. He had also lied to his family and friends, the Vanity Fair profile reports. There’s little reason to believe political creatures in today’s Washington would do anything different.
For a more recent example, consider Joe Klein, the journalist who repeatedly denied authoring Primary Colors, a roman à clef about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign—despite a textual analysis of his prose by a respected literary scholar concluding that it was him. Six months later, Klein eventually acknowledged he had indeed written the book.
The White House has reportedly descended into a “frantic hunt” for the author of the Times piece, and onlookers have started taking apart the piece in a textual analysis. One viral thread, for example, focused on the anonymous author’s use of the word “lodestar”—a term beloved of Pence. Be wary of jumping to conclusions there, however. As Axios has reported, White House officials try to mask their identities while leaking by using phrases that specific colleagues often deploy.