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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 12:24 GMT
Profile: Matt Drudge
Matt Drudge
Matt Drudge in his trademark 'muckraker' trilby hat
The news that Prince Harry was serving with the British Army in Afghanistan leaked out much earlier than its intended publication date. The story was broken by an American website, The Drudge Report. But what is it, and who is its eponymous author, Matt Drudge?

If the name seems familiar, it is probably because of its association with another famous name, Monica Lewinsky, and her association with President Clinton.

It was The Drudge Report which first ran the story, on 17 January 1998, that Bill Clinton and a White House intern called Monica Lewinsky had been having an affair.

The story rocked the American political establishment, and led to impeachment proceedings against President Clinton by the US House of Representatives after a series of highly-embarrassing hearings. His reputation was tarnished forever.

It was the making of Matt Drudge, whose website went on to become required reading for journalists and politicians in the United States.

[He has] "certainly been a public relations problem for the internet
Michael Kinsley
'Slate' online magazine

He has broken many American political stories since, and was in the headlines again recently when he published photos of the Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, wearing a turban and traditional Somali robes.

Mr Obama had been presented with the outfit during a visit to Africa, and was wearing them for the occasion as a courtesy when the photo was taken. Its publication at this sensitive time was criticised as an attempt to nobble his candidacy.

'Citizen journalism'

Matt Drudge was born in 1966 and grew up in Washington DC, but it was from California that he launched the first edition of The Drudge Report.

He had moved to Los Angeles in 1989 after graduating from high school, and was working in the gift shop of CBS television studios.

The Drudge Report was first published in early 1995, produced on a computer that Drudge's father had bought him the year before. Early editions concentrated on entertainment news, but after a year he left CBS and refocused his website on politics.

Matt Drudge styles his website as 'citizen journalism', releasing stories which the mainstream media either does not know about or refuses to publish.

This includes embargoed stories such as Prince Harry's active service in Afghanistan, and also items which it is feared will cause legal problems for publishers, or may be in poor taste.

Doubts cast

The Lewinsky scandal catapulted Matt Drudge to fame, and increased hits on his website tenfold. But research by the American media magazine Brill's Content the same year cast doubt on the accuracy of the majority of his 'exclusives'

Of the 51 stories that he claimed as exclusives from January to September 1998, the magazine found 31 were actually exclusive stories. Of those, 32% were untrue, 36% were true and the remaining 32% were of debatable accuracy.

He has "certainly been a public relations problem for the internet", Michael Kinsley, editor of the online magazine, Slate, commented at the time.

While Matt Drudge has grown wealthy from his website, his combative style has ensured that he has never become part of the journalistic establishment.

[The Drudge Report is] a ludicrous combination of gossip, political intrigue and extreme weather reports
Ana Marie Cox
Time Magazine

He had his own show on the Fox News Channel from 1998 to 1999, but left after accusing the channel of trying to censor him.

Drudge had wanted to use a photo of a human foetus which was undergoing an operation to correct spina bifida, to illustrate an argument against late-term abortion. Fox refused to allow it, and he refused to go on air.

He later worked for ABC radio and for Premier Radio, and guest-hosted for the conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Conservative populist

He describes himself as a conservative, a libertarian and a populist. He disputes claims that he is a right-wing Republican, although he has supported the party at the ballot box.

Now he concentrates mainly on his website once again, which claims to receive in excess of 5bn visits every year.

Based in a luxury penthouse in Florida, his earnings from advertising on The Drudge Report are estimated to be in the millions.

Two years ago, Time Magazine declared him to be one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

But it still called The Drudge Report "a ludicrous combination of gossip, political intrigue and extreme weather reports... still put together mostly by the guy who started out as a convenience store clerk".

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