Freelancer Quit Observer Story Because He Felt the Paper Was Using Him

The original freelancer assigned to the revenge-motivated New York Observer takedown of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in an interview with the New York Times today that he was hired straight out of an ice cream shop and quit when he figured out all the paper wanted was a smear piece.

In August, Schneiderman sued Donald Trump — father-in-law of Observer owner Jared Kushner — over allegations of fraud tied to Trump's real estate seminars, Trump University. Emails between the Observer and the attorney general's office suggest the Observer's interest in the story seemed to increase around filings in the Trump case.

The story's original author, 28-year-old Bill Gifford, was managing a New Jersey ice cream shop when a customer, Observer editor Ken Kurson, randomly stupidly offered him the freelance assignment.

Gifford told the Times that from the start, Kurson described Schneiderman as a "bad guy" and a "phony," and forwarded him negative articles about the attorney general. But just a few weeks after accepting, Giffords quit abruptly.

"He does come to my shop, he did want to give me this opportunity," Gifford [told the Times], "but I do feel like he might have been using me. To even call me a journalist is a reach, and to write such an important piece on an important person," he said, tailing off.

A few months later, Kurson would email Schneiderman's press secretary, Damien LaVera, that Gifford quit the story because "he felt terrorized" by LaVera's implied threats to ruin Gifford's future career in law.

Update: In a statement today, Kurson took issue with Gawker's initial characterization of his decision to hire Gifford as "random," detailing a months-long relationship with the former political operative and ice-cream parlor manager that predated the Trump assignment. We've updated the post accordingly.

[image via AP]