Kurt Eichenwald may be the most baffling figure in American journalism. While an award-winning business reporter for the New York Times, he paid at least $2,000 to a teenage Internet porn purveyor he eventually wrote about at length in the Times in 2005. Eichenwald says he was trying to lead the boy out of the life and gave him money to help earn his trust, but the payment violated Times policy and Eichenwald didn’t mention it to his editors. When they finally found out, long after Eichenwald had left the paper, it was obliged to publish a long, embarrassing acknowledgment. What was left unexplained was what had really been going on?

I blogged at length about Eichenwald last March and mentioned him in July, both times presenting him in the context of his most expert and hostile critic. That’s Debbie Nathan, a former Reader reporter whom Eichenwald has threatened to sue for $10 million. Now New York magazine has published a long, sympathetic, but unsparing portrait of Eichenwald. Here’s a sample:

“The fight he’s found himself in has wreaked havoc on his life. He’s teary, volatile, largely unable to work. He left the Times, then walked away from a large contract at Portfolio. His career is in tatters. For this, he blames a campaign by the convicts he’s exposed, other child molesters he doesn’t even know, random anonymous bloggers, and journalists, specifically the advocacy journalist Debbie Nathan, who has written several long pieces questioning his reporting methods and whom he calls ‘the high priestess of pedophilia.’ He believes they are acting in concert to destroy him, professionally and emotionally.”

For what it’s worth, there’s not a lick of evidence in the article that Nathan is the high priestess of anything. The quote appears because of what it says about his state of mind, not hers.