Monday, April 10, 2006

Extorter-Reporter - fighting for scoops, gossip, and the Gotham way
N.Y. Gossip Reporter Says He Was Set Up

NEW YORK - New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern, who's accused of trying to extort $200,000 from billionaire Ron Burkle in exchange for positive coverage, says he was set up by the businessman and is being smeared.

Stern said Burkle initiated discussions about the payment, offering money for the writer's clothing line called Skull & Bones.

"He set it up through a middle man," Stern, a freelancer for the newspaper's Page Six gossip column, said in a telephone interview Sunday. "He initiated discussions in a potential investment in my clothing company. That's where the whole money issue originated. He was the first one to bring up any question of payment for press coverage."

Stern is under federal investigation for allegedly demanding $100,000 and a $10,000 a month stipend in exchange for not writing negative stories about Burkle… who has an estimated personal wealth of more than $2 billion…

…[A] statement from [Stern’s] attorney Joseph Tacopina said: "Mr. Stern has been the victim of a smear campaign and expects to be fully exonerated and reinstated in his position."

When reached later by phone and asked to explain the statement, Stern said he questioned the accuracy of the reporting by the Daily News, the Post's rival, which has aggressively pursued the case.

Stern said: "Obviously the Daily News' role needs to be examined." He didn't elaborate.

A spokeswoman for the Daily News rejected the criticism.

"I find it completely ridiculous that a person who has been caught on videotape in an FBI sting operation is making these allegations," Donna Dees said. "It smacks of desperation.”

The FBI has declined to comment…

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