Cory Booker likes to tell stories, particularly about the hardscrabble lives of his constituents in Newark, N.J. With his affability, energy, and rhetorical prowess he earned two terms as Newark's mayor, and is poised for a blowout win in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Yet Booker has come under fire recently for telling stories that some say are more fiction than fact. And now, he's facing a lawsuit over his suspected fibbing.
On Wednesday, the conservative magazine National Review announced it had filed suit against Booker, the Newark Police Department, and the city of Newark to obtain police records related to one of Booker's well-known tales about an unsolved murder. Booker has a "very active imagination," National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote in announcing the suit, adding, "Count us as a little skeptical about heart-wrenching stories told by Cory Booker that happen to serve his rhetorical purposes."
The magazine wants to verify Booker's account of the death of Wazn Miller, a man who was shot to death in Newark in 2004. Booker has talked many times in the past about how he stumbled across a bleeding Miller and held him as he died, applying pressure to Miller's wound in a failed attempt to save his life. Booker supposedly told the dying Miller, "Stay with me, stay with me."
Though the police records relating to the incident should be publicly available, Lowry says the magazine has been "stonewalled and given the run-around" at every turn.
"We've asked nicely, we've asked firmly, we've asked in every way imaginable, but gotten nowhere," he said. "It is much easier to learn about the most sensitive aspects of top-secret national-security programs than it is to get Newark police records related to that day."
Last month, National Review reported that Booker had made up an "imaginary friend," a drug-pushing street character named T-Bone who supposedly threatened Booker's life, but eventually turned to him for help. The Newark Star-Ledger previously questioned the reality of T-Bone back in 2007, but stopped short of calling it a hoax. National Review, on the other hand, went beyond speculation, labeling T-Bone a "figment of [Booker's] imagination."
Booker insists that T-Bone is real. He recently told the Washington Post he is sick of the press trying to disprove his decade-old tales, saying, "I'm going to continue to tell stories."
Unless the lawsuit turns up some serious dirt on Booker, though, don't expect it to tank his campaign.
Booker has posted huge leads in every survey of the Senate race thanks to his star power and New Jersey's strong Democratic tilt. In a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Wednesday, Booker leads his Republican challenger, Steve Lonegan, by a huge 35-point margin, 64 percent to 29 percent.