Monday, April 04, 2005

The Schiavo Memo Scandal: WaPo Admits Errors, Refuses to Print Correction!

Howard Kurtz's column in today's edition of the Washington Post, after fawning on and on over the retiring Ted Koppel, features this three paragraph update on the Schiavo Memo Scandal:

The flap about a Washington Post report on an unsigned strategy memo in the Terri Schiavo case, which the paper said was "distributed to Republican senators," isn't going away.

It turns out that The Post's news service put out an early version of the March 20 story -- published by numerous other papers -- that said the talking points, which touted the Schiavo case as a political opportunity, were "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." GOP congressional leaders say they never saw the document, whose author remains unknown. Post reporter Mike Allen, who was unaware the news service had distributed the earlier version, said last week that the paper was careful not to say it was "a Republican memo."

Kate Carlisle, the news service's managing editor, says Allen's report was sent out at 9:07 the night before and "we weren't notified that changes had been made to the story after we got it." Despite criticism from bloggers, and Allen's request for a correction, Carlisle said no correction was warranted. Late Friday, the news service sent out an "advisory" saying: "The version of the article published by the paper did not specify the authorship and noted that the memo was unsigned. The authorship remains unknown." The advisory did not retract the assertion that "party leaders" had given out the memo.

(Emphasis added.)

Yes, you read that correctly! The Washington Post is now admitting that it put out a poorly worded and misleading story that was picked up all over the country by countless publications, broadcasters and other news services and was used repeatedly by Democrats and their allies to bash Republicans... but its own news service's Managing Editor is refusing to print a correction, despite the fact that a reporter whose name is attached to it as a co-author has requested that they do so! Un-be-liev-a-ble!!!

Kurtz also appeared on his weekly online Q&A session earlier today, and, unlike last week (when he dodged the issue entirely), actually took one whole question regarding the matter. He did not, however, say very much:

Ft. Belvior, Va.: Please address the discrepancy between the memo story that appeared in the print edition of the Post, and the version distributed through various wire services with the byline "The Washington Post" instead of a specific reporter. The wire service reports specifically claim the memo was distributed by Republican leaders, which differs significantly from what the Post printed. Thank you.

Howard Kurtz: I address this in my column today. The Washington Post's news service, which sent out an early version of the story, has now moved an advisory correcting some, but not all, of the Post reporters' story that appeared in a number of other newspapers but not in The Washington Post.

Later in the session, there is this interesting little exchange:

Washington, D.C.: I've heard the suggestion from some people that we ought to watch the newspapers very closely this week, as elected officials may try to release stories that they'd like to have buried by coverage of the Pope's death and the appoitment (sic) of a new pope.

How cynical is this? How likely?

Howard Kurtz: Hey, if I were about to plead guilty to something, I'd do it now.


Let us take you around the blogosphere for reaction.

First stop, Michelle Malkin, who has two posts on the subject so far today. In the first, she notes that at least one of the papers that ran with the WaPo's discredited version of the story, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, had already printed a correction this morning:

A Washington Post article about congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case published March 19 in the Post-Dispatch included a description of a memo asserting that the action could benefit Republicans politically. The article said the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." A later version of the story did not specify the authorship. The authorship remains unknown.

In the second post, Malkin shares the Kurtz Post column and then opens up her blog for a short time to comments, a rare event (and one can certainly see why with plenty of off-topic meanderings by trolls quite evident throughout the thread).

Next, we check in at Power Line, where John "Hindrocket" Hinderaker writes in a post headlined The Post Explains, Sort of:

So what we and Michelle Malkin wrote last week has now been confirmed. But Ms. Carlisle's position makes no sense at all. How can a correction not be in order? The Post sent out a story that said, in part: "Republican officials declared, in a memo that was supposed to be seen only by senators, that they believe the Schiavo case "is a great political issue"... The Post now admits that "the authorship [of the memo] remains unknown." So the original story was wrong, and a correction is necessary--not only by the Post, but by every newspaper that ran the incorrect story, and by the many columnists that picked up on the fake story and used it to beat up on the Senate Republicans.

One of Hinderaker's Power Line cohorts, Scott "The Big Trunk" Johnson, has a column out today in The Weekly Standard regarding both The Post's and ABC's handling of the memo flap (prior to today's events) that is well-worth reading.

Kevin P. Craver at has two posts of his own today. The first, published before he had seen the latest Kurtz column, has this juicy little tidbit:

People are not making as big a deal over media errors post-Memogate because mistakes, bias and arrogance are exactly what they expect from the mainstream press. Getting it wrong and insisting repeatedly that it’s true fits the average American’s perception of the press like a glove.

(Emphasis by author.)

The second, which came after Kurtz's update, features this morsel of wisdom:

So it appears that pride trumps accuracy at the Post. We’re not asking for a full-page, front-page retraction. Is it really too much to ask for a tiny correction totaling two paragraphs to be nestled in small type in the paper’s corrections section?

Newspapers to this day wonder why people don’t call in anymore to point out errors. The staff of The New York Times wonders who no one bothered to call the newspaper regarding Jayson Blair’s many fabrications. The answer is simple, and now even louder and clearer thanks to Kurtz: What good does it do?

(Emphasis by author.)

Right Pundit checks in pre-Kurtz and post-Kurtz.

Fishkite's latest post is here.

My earlier posts on this subject are located here:

I Suppose Karl Rove Wrote THIS, Too!

The Schiavo Memo Scandal Continues...

The Schiavo Memo Scandal: The Dam Bursts!

The Schiavo Memo Scandal: The Washington Post Gets Snared in a (World-Wide) Web of Lies!

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