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Katherine Harris and the Dead Intern Story



It's been about 45 minutes since I taped my CNN appearance for Howie Kurtz's media show, and I'm feeling okay about it -- on the drive back to the office, you always think of about 20 things you should have said -- and then I fire up the old PC and run into the Miami Herald's pointed excavation of Katherine Harris' campaign.

To Florida media, Harris' bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is like the Princess Diana car wreck -- we know it's gruesome, a little bit like muckraking and probably a little beaneath us, but the intoxicating mix of tragedy and celebrity (and in Harris' case, comeuppance for a political hack who doesn't know her place) is irresistible.

The latest bombshell from the Herald: That the beginning of her end was an attempt to keep MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough from entering the Republican primary by spreading rumors about the mysterious death of a former aide.

The backstory: Scarborough was once an up-and-coming Republican representative from Pensacola. Lori Klausutis was a 28-year-old staffer who was found dead and alone in his Fort Walton Beach office in 2001. A medical examiner later ruled she died after fainting from a heart ailment and hitting her head on a desk.

But Scarborough had to face a lot of whispers that there was some kind of Chandra Levy romance-gone-wrong scandal in Klausutis' demise (he remains so sensitive about the issue, that when I wrote a profile of him in 2003, the one thing that angered him most about the story was my mention of Klausutis)

The Herald's story features quotes from former Harris staffers saying she called big donors and reminded them of Klausutis' death and then tried to blame others when an angry Scarborough called to complain.

Former campaign manager Jim Dornan told the Herald: "''This [story] encapsulates everything wrong with her as a candidate. She reacted without thinking. She made stuff up. She called people she had no business calling. And when confronted with the insanity of her -- I use this term lightly -- `strategy,' she denied it and tried to blame someone else.''

Oh yeah, that's another reason journalists can't stay away from this story -- so many past employees of hers are willing to criticize her in print and on the record in a way
political operatives almost never do. Of course, her staff defections are continuing.

It's a singularly bizarre example of bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized political process. They can't agree on global warming or the Middle East, but Republicans and Democrats have united in the conclusion that Katherine Harris must not win election to the U.S. Senate.

Forget about balmy weather and Disney World. THIS is why I love living in the Sunshine State!

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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