Senate prober again rebuffed by a reporter

February 15, 1992|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The second reporter in as many days refused to reveal his sources yesterday to a Senate investigator searching for the source of leaks about Anita F. Hill's sexual harassment charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and the ethics probe of five senators.

Washington Times reporter Paul M. Rodriguez spent 2 1/2 hours before special counsel Peter E. Fleming Jr., who pressed him to disclose the sources of his stories about the ethics investigation of five senators and their relationship with savings and loan executive Charles H. Keating Jr.

"I did not answer any question that came close to abridging the First Amendment" protection of the press, Mr. Rodriguez said after the closed-door deposition, recalling that he was asked "about 100 times" to reveal sources.

Mr. Rodriguez, who appeared with two attorneys from the newspaper, said Mr. Fleming's questions concerned six stories he wrote about the "Keating Five" between July 1990 and February 1991. Mr. Rodriguez said he would only verify that he wrote the stories.

The Washington Times reporter was the second journalist to be subpoenaed in the investigation. On Thursday, Newsday reporter Timothy Phelps also refused to tell Mr. Fleming the sources for his articles about Ms. Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against Judge Thomas. The charges by the University of Oklahoma law professor -- vehemently denied by Judge Thomas -- led the Senate to reopen its hearings on the Supreme Court nominee, who was later confirmed.

Newsday attorneys said in their brief opposing the subpoenas that a 1986 Supreme Court decision has been used by lower courts to conclude the First Amendment protects a journalist from being forced to identify confidential sources.

While Mr. Phelps was pressed to reveal sources, Mr. Rodriguez said the special counsel asked whether specific individuals -- including senators and staffers -- leaked information. "All the cast of characters involved in the 'Keating Five' " were named, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Mr. Fleming declined to comment after the deposition. He subpoenaed a third reporter, Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio, who is scheduled to appear Feb. 24 for questioning about her stories on Ms. Hill's allegations.

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