Jeff Gerth is an American former investigative reporter for The New York Times who has written lengthy, probing stories that drew both praise and criticism. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for covering the transfer of American satellite-launch technology to China.[1] He broke stories about the Whitewater controversy and the Chinese scientist Wen Ho Lee.

Jeff Gerth
EducationB.A. Northwestern University

Early life and educationEdit

Gerth attended Shaker Heights High School in Ohio in the 1960s, where he was a member of the Junior Council on World Affairs and captain of the golf team. He was a varsity golfer at Northwestern University where he received a degree in business administration.


Gerth began his career not in newspapers, but in the marketing department of Standard Oil of Ohio; he was assigned to write down license plate data of vehicles pulling in and out of gas stations to find out why drivers were choosing Standard Oil's rivals.[2]

Gerth worked for the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign, investigating some aspects of the Watergate scandal. Then he did some freelance journalism, including an exposé of the La Costa resort's ties to organized crime that ran in Penthouse. Gerth, and his co-author, Lowell Bergman, were sued, along with Penthouse, by the founders of the resort for more than half a billion dollars. Before trial, Gerth and Bergman both settled and apologized. Gerth also collaborated with Seymour Hersh of The New York Times, who recommended that the newspaper should hire him. Gerth joined the newspaper in 1976 and spent most of his career in their Washington, D.C. bureau.[3]

In March 1992, Gerth revealed that beginning in 1978, while Bill Clinton was Arkansas attorney general, he and his wife Hillary were partners in an Ozark real estate deal with James B. McDougal. When Clinton was governor, McDougal controlled a bank and Madison Guaranty, a savings and loan. Gerth's stories raised the question of whether it was appropriate for a governor to be in business partnership with someone having immediate financial interests in an industry regulated by the state.[2] Gerth's reporting was criticized by liberal columnist Gene Lyons for "not particularly fair or balanced stories that combine a prosecutorial bias and the art of tactical omission."[4] Other criticisms centered on the unclear time line - it was difficult to pick out that Bill Clinton was attorney general, not governor, at the time the partnership was created, and that Jim McDougal did not own a business regulated by the state until passage of the Garn–St. Germain Depository Institutions Act in 1982, four years after creation of the partnership. (See The Hunting of the President, particularly the book.)[5]

Gerth reported a controversial Sunday meeting between Clinton and his personal secretary, Betty Currie. At the meeting, according to Currie, Clinton asked her a number of sensitive questions, including whether she remembered his ever being alone with Monica Lewinsky.[2]

From April to December 1998, Gerth and others at The New York Times covered, or uncovered, "the corporate sale of American technology to China, with U.S. government approval despite national security risks, prompting investigations and significant changes in policy". The 1999 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting recognized The New York Times staff, and notably Jeff Gerth.[1]

On March 6, 1999, Gerth reported that an unidentified Chinese American, later identified as Wen Ho Lee, stole secrets for U.S. nuclear bombs. A government official was quoted as saying the case was "going to be just as bad as the Rosenbergs".[6] FBI investigators waved the story in front of Lee as they interrogated him.[2] Judge James Parker eventually dropped all charges against Lee, stating, "I sincerely apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner you were held in captivity", describing Lee's nine months in solitary confinement as having "embarrassed our nation and all of its citizens".[7]

In 2004, Gerth was a visiting professor at Princeton University, where he taught an undergraduate seminar on investigative reporting. He left The New York Times in 2005, and joined the staff of ProPublica in February 2008.[8]

With his former colleague at The New York Times, Don Van Natta, Jr., Gerth wrote an investigative biography about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton entitled, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was published in June 2007 by Little, Brown and Company. Gerth and Van Natta were reportedly offered a $1 million advance.[9]

His New York Times articles on Wen Ho Lee are mentioned in the play Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang. In Yellow Face, Gerth's character is only referred to as "Name Withheld on Advice of Counsel".

On January 30, 2023, Gerth published in the Columbia Journalism Review what his editor called an "encyclopedic look at one of the most consequential moments in American media history," the U.S. media's coverage of Trump's alleged role in the Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. The four-part series was entitled "The press versus the president." After an introduction by Kyle Pope,[10] Gerth's series was published.[11][12][13][14] Some journalists pushed back against Gerth's assertions, among them David Corn,[15] Joe Conason,[16] Jonathan Chait,[17] Rachel Maddow,[18] Cathy Young,[19] Dan Kennedy,[20] and Duncan Campbell.[21] Andrew Prokop mentioned Gerth's series and grouped him together with other journalists that he labeled "Trump-Russia revisionists" including Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald.[22]

Personal lifeEdit

Gerth married at age thirty-nine and became a father a year later. His wife Janice O'Connell worked on the Foreign Relations Committee for Senator Christopher Dodd, who during the 1996 presidential campaign chaired the Democratic National Committee. Gerth recused himself from any campaign coverage.[2]


  1. ^ a b "The 1999 Pulitzer Prize Winners: National Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-10-28. With reprints of ten 1998 works.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Eye of the Storm", Ted Gup, Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2001. Archived 2008-03-22. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
  3. ^ Blood Sport, James Stewart, Simon & Schuster.
  4. ^ "Fool for Scandal: How the 'Times' got Whitewater wrong (1994)". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  5. ^ "All the facts that are fit to omit (1998)". 15 February 1998. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  6. ^ Risen, James; Gerth, Jeff (Mar 6, 1999). "BREACH AT LOS ALAMOS: A special report.; China Stole Nuclear Secrets For Bombs, U.S. Aides Say". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Lee, Wen Ho; Zia, Helen (2001). My Country Versus Me: The first-hand account by the Los Alamos scientist who was falsely accused of being a spy. Hyperion Books. p. 367. ISBN 9780786868032.
  8. ^ "Noted Reporters and Web Technologist Join New Investigative Team", ProPublica, Feb. 19, 2008.
  9. ^ "The United States of America vs. Bill Keller", New York Magazine, Sep. 11, 2006.
  10. ^ Pope, Kyle (January 30, 2023). "Looking back on the coverage of Trump". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  11. ^ Gerth, Jeff (January 30, 2023). "The press versus the president, part one". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  12. ^ Gerth, Jeff (January 30, 2023). "The press versus the president, part two". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  13. ^ Gerth, Jeff (January 30, 2023). "The press versus the president, part three". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  14. ^ Gerth, Jeff (January 30, 2023). "The press versus the president, part four". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  15. ^ Corn, David (February 2, 2023). "Columbia Journalism Review's Big Fail: It Published 24,000 Words on Russiagate and Missed the Point". Mother Jones. Retrieved February 8, 2023. Gerth "missed the point" and bolstered "Trump's phony narrative...Ultimately Gerth does a disservice by failing to cast Russiagate accurately. Putin's attack succeeded, with help from Trump and his crew. That has always been the big story."
  16. ^ Conason, Joe (February 4, 2023). "The Reporter Who Hyped Whitewater Now Backs Trump On 'Russiagate'". The National Memo. Retrieved February 10, 2023. His former colleagues are said to be seething with fury at him...because Gerth has betrayed basic journalistic standards....Gerth is perpetuating the coverup....[Trump] helped an adversary sabotage an American election.
  17. ^ Chait, Jonathan (February 9, 2023). "Columbia Journalism Review Had a Different Russiagate Story - and Spiked It". New York. Retrieved February 10, 2023. This is a triumph of spin.... Yes, some of the reporting, as you would expect of a sprawling investigation, was wrong. And some expectations of where the scandal would go from opinion journalists were wrong, too...Still, the investigation produced extensive evidence of misconduct....In the main, the broad suspicion of the investigation — that Trump's pattern of oddly Russophilic statements might be explained by some hidden partnership — proved to be correct.
  18. ^ Maddow, Rachel (February 3, 2023). "Friday's Mini-Report, 2.3.23". MSNBC. Retrieved February 10, 2023. I wish I knew why the Columbia Journalism Review published such an unfortunate piece on such an important issue: "Misdirection, an essential tool for magicians, is not usually a component of media criticism. But in a lengthy critique of the coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal published this week by the Columbia Journalism Review, veteran investigative reporter Jeff Gerth deflects attention from the core components of Russiagate, mirroring Donald Trump's own efforts of the past six years to escape accountability for his profound betrayal of the nation.
  19. ^ Young, Cathy (February 9, 2023). "Why 'Russiagate' Skeptics Are Cackling—But Shouldn't Be". The Bulwark. Retrieved February 10, 2023. As Corn puts it: 'With this confab, Team Trump signaled to Moscow that it was willing to accept Putin's covert assistance. It did not report to the FBI or anyone else that the Kremlin was aiming to intervene in the election. This may not have been collusion; it was complicity.'
  20. ^ Kennedy, Dan (February 9, 2023). "The CJR's critique of 'Russia Russia Russia' coverage is all trees, no forest". Media Nation. Retrieved February 10, 2023. Gerth has shown that the press, and especially the Times, was not as careful as it should have been in reporting on Russia Russia Russia. And yes, details matter. But the notion that Trump was a victim of bad reporting with regard to Russia is just nonsense. In the end, Gerth has produced a report that's all trees, no forest.
  21. ^ Campbell, Duncan (February 7, 2023). "Who Watches the Watchdog? The CJR's Russia Problem". Byline Times. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  22. ^ Prokop, Andrew (February 15, 2023). "The rise of the Trump-Russia revisionists". Vox. Retrieved February 21, 2023.

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