At long last Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has written a full column about the so-called “GOP Talking Points” memo supposedly circulated by Republicans nearly two weeks ago. (Kurtz briefly mentioned the issue last week.)
As I alluded to here, ABC News is defending itself on the ground that Linda Douglass reported that the memo was circulated to Republicans, not by Republicans:
“ABC News had very reliable, multiple sources who indicated the memo was distributed to Republicans on the floor of the Senate, and that is what we reported,” network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said yesterday. “We have no doubt it was distributed to Republicans. The fact that people are trying to make it about something else is not surprising. It’s what we deal with every day from all sides.” Referring to Douglass, who is out of the country, he said critics were trying “to go after a good reporter doing good reporting.”
Mike Allen of the Washington Post offered Kurtz a similar defense:
The Post’s Allen said “the blog interest has been stoked by secondhand accounts” that the paper’s story referred to Republican talking points. “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,” he said. “We stuck to what we knew to be true and did not call them talking points or a Republican memo. The document was provided by an official who has a long record of trustworthiness, and this official gave a precise account of the document’s provenance, satisfying us that it was authentic and that it had been used in an attempt to influence Republican senators.”
Sorry, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Allen, you are not addressing the real issue. ABC News’ web site referred to the memo as “GOP Talking Points.” ABC’s White House correspondent, Kate Snow, said on Good Morning America that the memo was circulated by Republicans. The Post is less culpable, but its second article about the memo (not the original article co-authored by Mike Allen) implied the memo was drafted and/or circulated by Republicans.
Then there’s this article, published in the Seattle Times but running with a Washington Post byline, which states that the memo was “distributed to Republican senators by party leaders.”
By failing to raise these points with Schneider and Allen, Kurtz lets the Post and particularly ABC News off the hook too easily.
Later in his column, Kurtz quotes an unnamed Democratic Senate official saying the memo was given to an unnamed Democrat senator by an unnamed Republican senator:
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that these are some talking points concocted by a Democratic staffer. The fact is, these talking points were given to a Democratic member by a Republican senator.” Democratic aides, in turn, gave the memo to reporters, as the New York Times reported last week.
This is interesting, but it has absolutely no bearing on the two key questions at issue–namely, (1) who wrote the memo and (2) who distributed the memo to Republican senators.
Bottom line: We still don’t know who wrote the memo. We still don’t know who distributed it. ABCNews.com still hasn’t retracted its unsubstantiated characterization of the memo as “GOP Talking Points.” ABC still has not acknowledged that Kate Snow misspoke. The Post still hasn’t acknowledged that it wrongly implied that the memo was written and/or distributed by Republicans.
And all the other editorial writers, columnists, and pundits, from Chris Matthews to Cynthia Tucker to the Boston Globe editorial board, who stated explicitly that Republicans distributed the memo, still have not noted that the two news outlets that broke the story–ABC News and the Post–no longer say the memo was circulated by Republicans.
- Ed Morrissey weighs in here.
- Powerful Power Line flays Howie.
- The Anchoress says it’s time to find out once and for all who wrote the Document of Dubious Origin.
- Fishkite says we should call it the ABC Talking Points Memo
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