A day after Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane acknowledged she was under investigation for allegedly leaking grand jury material, she switched subjects before a national audience.
Her bombshell in that Tuesday-night CNN interview: Pornographic e-mails circulated among Pennsylvania officials had included "a string of videos and pictures sometimes depicting children."
The aftermath was familiar. Within hours, her aides were hedging and trimming, parsing her words, denying she had said the e-mails involved child porn, which is a crime often prosecuted. A day later, her spokeswoman even had to retract a previous clarification.
Kane went from success to success in her first year in office. But in her second, her inability to stick to a consistent narrative has undone her again and again, with critics faulting her as being, at best, unready for prime time and at worst, completely irresponsible.
"You can't have new narratives every other day," said G. Terry Madonna, the politics expert at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. "This lack of consistency raises serious questions. Where does it leave prosecutors if their word isn't trusted?"
In June, Kane stirred scrutiny - and another retraction - after she claimed in a news conference that while her predecessors dawdled in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse investigation, the former assistant coach had molested more children whose cases never got prosecutors' attention.
Challenged by investigators, including the head of the state police, Kane's staff had to issue a correction: It turned out Sandusky had indeed been charged with assaulting one of the young men she was referring to. In fact, prosecutors had called him to the stand during the trial, and a jury had convicted Sandusky of his abuse.
Months before that misstatement, Kane had become tangled in her explanation of why her office secretly shut down a corruption investigation into Philadelphia lawmakers taped taking cash and gifts.
Among the claims then that have since been challenged or discredited: that former state prosecutors dropped charges in a "deal of the century" for the key cooperating informant in the case (Kane approved ending his prosecution) and that federal authorities agreed with her conclusion that the investigation was "flawed" (they took no position).
Larry Ceisler, a Democratic political consultant in Philadelphia, said Kane, whose previous official role was as a line prosecutor in Lackawanna County, seemed unprepared for the media pressure of her high-profile job.
"This is what happens when you go from being an assistant district attorney in a second-tier county to the top job," said Ceisler. "Experience does matter."
Kane and her supporters dismiss the criticism. She says she is fighting pervasive public corruption and an abuse of power that led to her being targeted in the leak investigation. "I am shocked at how deep it goes," she said on CNN. "And I am shocked by how powerful it is."
One supporter is a fellow Democrat and prosecutor, Northampton County District Attorney John M. Morganelli.
Acknowledging her "credibility issues," Morganelli said Kane was facing a grand jury probe that has muzzled her from defending herself.
After Kane's comments to CNN Tuesday, reporters quickly discovered that the two e-mails in question, out of 4,000 that Kane has deemed questionable, were downloaded originally from a nine-photo set dubbed "Men in training" widely available on the Internet.
The two from that nine-photo set that circulated among the office were images of a mischievous young boy in underwear peeping into the underwear of a girl, but not at their private parts; and one showing a boy and girl both clothed and kissing.
Others in the original set showed a boy in a high chair reaching for a beer and an infant in diapers staring at a computer image of a bikini-clad woman.
The next day, Kane spokeswoman Renee Martin said, "We are not saying it reached the level of child pornography."
Still, Martin said, her boss had not left a false impression. Some of the e-mails circulated in the office had indeed shown children, Martin said.
William Lutz, a retired English professor from Rutgers University and author of the book Doublespeak about the misuse of language by politicians and others, flatly disagreed. He said Kane had clearly suggested the e-mail participants were sharing child porn, a criminal act.
"Anyway you cut it, the original statement that she made in its original context was misleading," Lutz said Friday.
In the last year, Kane's chief of staff and senior executive attorney general have both left. Since her inauguration, she has had four spokesmen for the office.
In recent days, she hired a personal spokesman - Lanny Davis, a Washington consultant and former counsel to President Bill Clinton. On Friday, Davis issued a statement defending Kane's CNN remarks.
"In fact, the attorney general never said anything about 'child pornography' or investigating or prosecuting 'child pornography' on CNN," Davis said. "The critics of the attorney general have ignored her words and then disagreed with something the attorney general never said - in other words, a straw-man argument invented by critics and then knocked down by the same.
"The attorney general told CNN only that she was disturbed by the depictions of children. That is all."
This month, Kane spoke with a reporter from the Harrisburg Patriot-News at her home, where she has been working as she recovers from a concussion. Kane denied that she or her office had leaked grand jury documents to embarrass or hurt a political foe.
"We follow the letter of the law; that's why I took the job," she said. "I'm pretty confident that pretty soon the truth will come out."
A week later, Kane amplified her story. As she headed into grand jury proceedings in Montgomery County, she acknowledged for the first time that her office had indeed disclosed investigative material. But it was a disclosure, she said, "done in a way that did not violate statutory or case law regarding grand jury secrecy."