Tale of the tape: ‘Observer’ won’t retract story about ‘Post’ editor Col Allan and soccer-mom madam Anna Gristina

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New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan is demanding a retraction from The New York Observer, which reported yesterday in an item attributed to multiple anonymous sources that Anna Gristina, the alleged mastermind of a Manhattan prostitution ring, was on tape bragging about being good friends with him.

“My attorneys are today filing a formal demand of retraction from the Observer and its publisher," Allan said in an article the paper posted on its website late this afternoon. “The Observer’s report is nothing but a smear and a lie.”

But it dosen't look like Allan is going to get what he wants.

"It doesn't make much sense to retract," Observer editor Elizabeth Spiers told Capital.

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At the center of the matter are transcripts of interviews and surveillance audio amassed by law enforcement, and uncovered by the Daily News, during the five-year investigation of Gristina's alleged prostitution ring.

In the original Observer report, reporter Foster Kamer cited "multiple" sources "familiar with the situation," but Kamer did not claim to have heard the tape in question himself.

"If she's saying now that she doesn't know Col, that's all well and good," Spiers said, "but that's not what she said on the surveillance audio according to our sources. It's certainly possible that she could have been lying on the audio. But note that we didn't report that she was a friend of Col's, only that she claimed to be."

The alleged connection between Allan and Gristina aside, it's been clear that Gristina has ties to the Post. As we pointed out earlier today, one of her associates now under investigation in the scandal, attorney David Jaroslawicz, has been giving soundbites to the tabloid since at least 1998. And Post reporter Jeane MacIntosh, who landed a big jail-house exclusive with Gristina earlier this month, was said to have known her well.

"The city’s journos were peeved when they lined up at Rikers all day, only for MacIntosh to sweep by them and get entry because she had a 'relationship' with Gristina," a source had told us.

In fact, it's largely through Macintosh that this latest development has, bizarrely, transpired. The long-time Postie wrote an article outing Gristina as a consistent source in her reporting, particularly on items she wrote for Page Six.

"Anna Gristina, the notorious soccer mom madam, does have a relationship with someone at the New York Post. It's me. Gristina has been a source on several stories I've written at the paper, most notably on Page Six," the piece began.

MacIntosh said she visited Gristina at Rikers again today to ask her about the Observer's story:

“I don’t know who Col Allan is,” she said. “I have never met him. I have never heard his name until today.”

She recalled having a 2008 conversation with [Ed. note: Name redacted here; see more below*], a woman who was allegedly working as an escort for madam Kristin Davis.

“She was very upset, and was being questioned in the Kristin Davis case, and was upset that bad things would be said about her if it got into the papers,” Gristina said.

“She had already been through a very bad custody battle and it didn’t make her look good. She was asking for help. She was afraid and thought it might hurt her custody situation.

"I told her I had a relationship with someone at The Post [meaning me, Jeane MacIntosh] who was a good friend, and that I had provided information to The Post in the past.”

Asked if she knew the conversation was being recorded, she said, “No, but apparently it was.”

Observer executive editor Aaron Gell tweets: "Macintosh piece notwithstanding, only that tape will show whether Gristina claimed a friendship with Allan."

At least one place has those recordings, or a transcript of them, if earlier reports are to be believed: The Daily News.

* Editor's note: The original report from The New York Post named a person here, using a first and last name; shortly thereafter, the Post updated the report on its website, replacing that name with a different name, an apparent alias, "Ashley." The Post has not annotated the change with any acknowledgement of the original report, nor provided any explanation for altering it. Because of serious ethical concerns raised to us by sources familiar with the situation, we are for the moment redacting the name in our report altogether, while we investigate further. We will update this post as soon as we understand the situation fully.