Smart family defending itself

Their attorney gets apologies from two newspapers regarding salacious story

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped for nine months, stood quietly with her parents in the White House Rose Garden April 30 as President George W. Bush signed into law a child protection bill promoting a national AMBER alert system.

Ed Smart, Elizabeth's father, lobbied hard for the Amber Alert bill as it is called, and said its signing was a historic event.

Elizabeth, then 14, was kidnapped on June 5, 2002, and reunited with her family March 12, 2003. A street preacher, Brian David Mitchell, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, have been charged in the kidnapping.

The Smart family also appeared on Fox TV Network's "The John Walsh Show" where Elizabeth played the harp. However, the family declined news interviews in keeping with their low-profile status to protect Elizabeth's and the family's privacy. The status of the family has been such a concern for the Smarts that they hired media attorney Randy Dryer to track down leaks from police agencies and the media that led to sensationalized stories. One such story was published by the National Enquirer shortly after the kidnapping, alleging lurid behavior in the family. The story was later retracted by the National Enquirer. The sources were discovered to be two Salt Lake Tribune reporters who were paid $10,000 each by the National Enquirer. The two reporters were fired from the Tribune after they acknowledged their primary role in the article. One admitted that an alleged secret journal that detailed salacious behavior was made up.

Dean Singleton, owner of MediaNews, the parent company of the Tribune, met with the Smart family and apologized to them for "something very, very hurtful."

In a press conference May 2, Dryer decried "pervasive" leaks from four law enforcement agencies.

"The primary victims in this entire affair have been the Smart family," he said, referring to the kidnapping and the sensational news article.

A statement released by the Smart family said: "Although we are deeply hurt, we hold no personal animosity toward those who have acted in less than honorable ways. We again express our sincere gratitude to all those who worked so hard and with great compassion and integrity. The poor actions of a few should not spoil the good work of so many."