Friday, April 01, 2005

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

NOTE: As of 4/4, new updates can now be found HERE.


Michelle Malkin and John Hinderaker are on top of it again, as they and some other blogging sharpshooters catch the Washington Post red-handed in an apparent lie!

On Thursday, in a post labeled "Is the Post Ducking Responsibility?" (scroll down), Power Line's Hinderaker (aka Hindrocket) points out:

... Allen, like ABC News, took the position that it was all a misunderstanding: the Post had never meant to suggest that Republicans authored or distributed the memo, but only that some Republicans had received it. Allen told Kurtz:

"We simply reported that the sheet of paper was distributed to Republican senators and told our readers explicitly that the document was unsigned, making clear it was unofficial. We stuck to what we knew to be true and did not call them talking points or a Republican memo."

A-ha! Not so fast there, my slippery little MSM eel:

Earlier today, we noted that Michelle Malkin has identified a number of newspapers that ran the Washington Post's story on the memo, but in a version that (unlike the one that appeared in the Post itself) explicitly attributed the document to the party's leadership. The key line from these stories was, "The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation 'a great political issue' that would appeal to the party's base..."

Hmmm... Where could all those other newspapers have gotten that impression, pray-tell?

Michelle concluded that in all likelihood, the Post had published this version of the story on its wire service, but then revised the story to eliminate the claim that the memo was distributed by Republican leaders before the story ran in the Post the next morning (March 20).

Oh, and where is your proof, Ms. Malkin and Mr. Hinderaker?

This hypothesis seems pretty obviously correct. And it was apparently comfirmed when blogger Jack Risko found this archived version of the Post's article by Mike Allen and Manuel Roig-Franzia, dated 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. It includes the discredited language: "A one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters."

And, in an update later on in the post:

A reader points out that the Post's original story on the fake memo, which went out, apparently, on March 19, also included this paragraph:

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" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006.

OUCH! Does the defense have anything to say before the blogosphere pronounces judgment? Maybe, maybe not, just don't expect an apology:

Both the Post and ABC now claim that they never meant to accuse the Republicans of authoring or distributing the notorious memo. But neither has printed a retraction, clarification or correction. The Post has done nothing to correct or retract the version of its story that apparently went out on the evening of March 19. And to our knowledge, not a single one of the dozens of newspapers and other news outlets that printed the false claim that the memo was circulated by the Republican leadership has retracted or corrected that defamatory claim.

[NOTE: Hinderaker also announced he was scheduled to appear Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with WaPo's Howard Kurtz to discuss the memo flap. Unfortunately, he later posted that he had been cancelled due to the network's anticipated wall-to-wall coverage of the impending death of Pope John Paul II]

Michelle Malkin has already posted two follow-ups to the article linked to above. In the first, entitled Will The Washington Post Please Respond? there is this:

I spoke with the Seattle Times' chief copy editor, Jim Mallery, yesterday. He confirmed that this article was excerpted directly from a Washington Post article distributed by the Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service. The statement that the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders" was in the Post's story. It was not added by a Seattle Times copy editor...

...It's possible that a Post editor or someone at the Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service added the phrase "by party leaders" after reporters Mike Allen and Manuel Roig-Franzia handed in their story. It's also possible that the phrase was included in the original copy submitted by Allen and Roig-Franzia. So far, Allen has not responded to an e-mail asking him to explain the discrepancy.

Michelle continues:

I suspect that no one at the Post or ABC News still believes the amateurish, unsigned, misspelled memo was circulated by Republican Party leaders. We may never know whether the memo was the handywork of a Republican staffer or a Democrat dirty trickster or an outside interloper, but clearly there is absolutely no evidence that this was a Karl Rove plot.

Nonetheless, the damage has been done. The memo has been cited hundreds of times to support the argument that Republicans' decision to intervene in the Schiavo case was politically motivated. And neither ABC News nor the Post has admitted any wrongdoing.

The Post can continue to mischaracterize its coverage. It can stonewall, perhaps hoping that its critics will get bored and give up. Or it can own up to its errors.

In her second follow-up, The Washington Post Screws Up Again, Michelle catches another Post big-shot, Chief Political Correspondent Terry Neal, fudging the facts in an online Q&A session!

Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus, a rare voice of sanity at the decidedly left-tilted Slate, comments on the matter (scroll down to "Who Is 'Mike Allen'?") [via Michelle Malkin]

So does TKS/NRO's Jim Geraghty.'s Kevin P. Craver publishes an open letter to the Washington Post that begins:

Dear Mr. Allen, Mr. Getler and Mr. Kurtz:

For the record, I do not think that The Washington Post had the intentional goal of bamboozling the public with its coverage of the "talking points memo" that appears to be a fraud. Regardless, the Post is guilty of two cardinal journalistic sins, namely printing wrong information and not promptly correcting it. Both need to be addressed immediately.

It also includes this passage:

As a journalist and a blogger, I know that the media's job is to present the facts without fear or favor. The GOP has wrongly taken a public relations black eye for something that was not their doing, and the fault lies squarely with the Post and ABC News, which also has done nothing to retract GOP authorship of the memo.

And concludes with this warning:

If no correction is to be run, the blogosphere will do it for you, and the fragile credibility of the mainstream media will show yet another crack.

4/2 UPDATE: checks in regarding the Terry Neal Q&A. An excerpt:

"If there is proof that the Republican leadership did NOT distribute this memo, then yes, Reuters should issue a correction. And yes,, I would think, would note in the corrections area that Reuters incorrectly reported that fact. But I still don’t think there’s proof that some in the GOP leadership did not pass the memo around." [Terry Neal]

Didn’t we hear this crap during Memogate? This kind of attitude makes good journalists throw up. So it’s up to the GOP to prove that they DIDN’T write and distribute this memo? So it’s up to anyone wronged by an MSM error to prove themselves innocent? In short, it’s up to the public to do for free what Washington Post journalists are paid to do?

Boy, I’d like to punch my old editors in the teeth right now. All these years, they had me do all this extra work to be able to back up my stories, when checking my facts was in reality the responsibility of the people and government officials I was writing about.

Meanwhile, both Michelle Malkin and suggest we send along some more questions about the memo scandal for Howard Kurtz, for his next online Q&A, seeing as how he ducked them last week. Any bets as to whether or not he will take a few of them this time around?

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!

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