Thanks to Power Line, we now know that the memo was written on paper without letterhead and contained no identifying information as to who sent it or who it was distributed to. We also know that the title of the memo misstates the number of the Schiavo bill and the first talking point misspells Schiavo’s name.
Cynthia Tucker says in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the memo was passed around by “an anonymous GOP strategist.” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the memo was circulated by “party leaders.” Citing the Washington Post, Chris Matthews said the memo was circulated by “the Senate leadership.”
The Hartford Courant said “Republicans in the Senate ought to be embarrassed” at the memo, even while acknowledging in the same sentence that the memo is unsigned.
In an editorial titled “Exploiting Terri Schiavo,” the Boston Globe says the memo was distributed by “Republican leaders.” The Globe attributes this information to the two MSM outlets that broke the story: ABC News and the Post.
But neither ABC News nor the Post is saying who wrote and circulated the memo. Indeed, despite an ABC News headline characterizing the memo as “GOP talking points,” I haven’t been able to find a single instance in which any ABC News or Post reporter stated unequivocally that the memo was written by someone affiliated with the Republican Party.
ABC’s Linda Douglass, who first broke the story on Friday March 18, said only that “ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican Senators, explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case….”
Charles Babington and Mike Allen of the Post wrote on Monday March 21 that Sen. Bill Frist “denounced an unsigned memo circulated to Republican lawmakers over the weekend….”
On the other hand, a second
Babington-Allen Post article published yesterday includes this passage:
Some Democrats quietly grumbled that Bush’s dramatic return to Washington was orchestrated in part to curry favor with such conservatives. An unsigned memo circulated among GOP senators calling the Schiavo case “a great political issue” bolstered that view.
The Post writers do not come out and say that GOP leaders were responsible for the memo, but they sure seem to insinuate it.
In an online Q&A chat, Post reporter Allen had this to say about the memo’s origins: “Because of the conditions under which it was provided to us, we frustratingly cannot tell our readers all that we know about its provenance. But I would not have put it in an article if I were not certain of its authenticity and relevance — i.e., senators had it on the floor.”
The existence of the memo and its presence on the Senate floor are not in dispute. The question is who wrote and circulated it. More specifically:
- was the ABC News headline describing the memo as “GOP Talking Points” based on reporting or conjecture?
- what is the basis for the Post’s claim that the memo shows that Republicans are using the Schiavo case to score political points with conservative voters?
- does anyone at ABC or the Post seriously believe that Senate Republican leaders were responsible for drafting or circulating the memo, as some commentators have claimed?
Update: This post was lightly edited at 8:13 am.
Update II: One of Power Line’s readers says, “The reason the authenticity of the Schiavo memo is not in dispute, is because those in a position to know haven’t disputed it.”
This miscasts the issue. Nobody is disputing that the memo exists or that it was circulated to GOP leaders. In those respects the “authenticity” of the memo is not in dispute. The issue is who wrote the memo and who circulated it. These matters are very much in dispute.
In an update to his original post at Power Line, John Hinderaker points out that “most of the text of the memo is copied (typo and all) from this post at the Traditional Values Coalition site.” Given that, it seems quite possible that someone at the TVC was responsible for drafting the memo, not Republican Party operatives.
Update III: Correction made at 5:38 am on 3/24 regarding the authors of the second Post article.blog comments powered by Disqus
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