Vernon Loeb: ‘I was dumbfounded when I heard about the affair’

The Washington Post

Washington Post local editor Vernon Loeb ghostwrote Paula Broadwell's biography of Gen. David Petraeus, and up till now he's been silent about the collaboration. In a first-person account published Monday evening, Loeb emphasizes he was oblivious to Broadwell's and Petraeus' affair. He also says he wasn't responsible for the tone of the suddenly bestselling book:

I had no say over the book’s ultimate take on Petraeus, which some have found excessively laudatory. Broadwell was free to make whatever revision or modifications she desired to the text, and did so liberally. To my mind, in any event, the book remains a valuable chronicle of his year in command and makes clear that the war wasn’t going all that well.

"I still have no idea when the affair actually began," Loeb writes. He offers an anecdote of the only time he and Petraeus met during the production of the book as an example of how the general could be "personable on a kind of superficial level that nonetheless made people feel good about their interaction with him."

We drove six miles out along the Potomac, were dropped off, and ran back along the dirt tow path. The commander of the war in Afghanistan and I ran side by side, talking about great world events. I could scarcely believe I suddenly had this kind of access.

Just as I now can scarcely believe where that kind of access led Broadwell, and Petraeus.

In a video interview, Loeb says, "I was dumbfounded when I heard about the affair ... It was never a question in my mind":

Loeb got an email from Broadwell Thursday morning about her birthday party planned for Saturday, to which he and "a couple other people in our newsroom were invited." Loeb said he was "really looking forward to going because I was hoping Petraeus was gonna be there. I wanted to chat with him. And I got an email from her Thursday morning, the day before this broke, just saying, 'Hey, I'm looking forward to seeing you, haven't seen you for a while, it'd be good to catch up.' And so that said to me that as of Thursday morning Paula was not aware that this thing was gonna break."

Loeb said he sent Broadwell an email Saturday that said, "Hang in there," to which she replied, "We'll get through this." Loeb predicted both Broadwell and Petraeus would come "roaring back." They were alike in many ways, Loeb said, and both have "an iron will."

In case you thought this whole thing couldn't get weirder: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters via a statement early Tuesday that Gen. John Allen was being investigated for what a defense official called “inappropriate communication” with Jill Kelley -- 20,000-30,000 documents, "many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley," have been turned over to the Pentagon's inspector general. And in their account of how "a relatively simple cyberstalking case had ballooned into a national security investigation," Devlin Barrett, Evan Perez and Siobhan Gorman report an FBI agent sent shirtless photos of himself to Kelley. It was the same FBI agent to whom Kelley reported the threatening emails from Broadwell, which led to the affair's discovery and Petraeus' resignation as CIA director. Broadwell's father, Paul Krantz, gave what Business Insider described as "a strange, cryptic quote," to the New York Daily News: “This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out,” he said.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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