How A Sloppy Hit Piece Falls Apart
Yesterday, the Washington Post published a story about Mitt Romney supposedly bullying a presumably gay student when he was in high school, way back in 1965 (nearly 50 years ago). Today, that story is falling apart and causing a lot of questions the WaPo might find uncomfortable.
For example, did the WaPo run any extended articles about Barack Obama’s admitted cocaine use in high school during the 2008 election cycle? I followed that election very closely, and I sure don’t recall any such story, and Tim Graham even went and looked for one and couldn’t find one.
Second, the WaPo made such an egregious error in their story that they later had to do a quiet correction without any announcement, apparently hoping no one would notice — but someone did.
The original piece mentioned the following:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
As such, the Post made a change to its piece now visible at the website on page 3:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
Note the addition of the statement that Lauber has been disturbed by it “since hearing about it several weeks ago.”
And there’s a big problem even with the corrected version of the quote:
While the Post reports White as having “long been bothered” by the haircutting incident,” he told ABC News he was not present for the prank, in which Romney is said to have forcefully cut a student’s long hair and was not aware of it until this year when he was contacted by the Washington Post.
Given the WaPo’s obvious attempt to destroy Romney’s candidacy, I’d say that White probably really wasn’t aware of it until the WaPo reporters asked him about it.
The WaPo also made a tactical blunder of the first order. You don’t run a hit piece like this in May. You either run it very early in the primary process to try to knock the candidate out before he gets started, or you hold it until after Labor Day when most non-political-wonks start paying attention to the race. Doing it now, after the primaries have pretty much decided on a candidate, but before the average Joe and Jane start paying attention doesn’t get you much. Most of the people who will remember this in November are those people — like bloggers — who pay close attention to politics year-round, and most of them have already made up their minds about Romney, either for or against.
To summarize, we have a poorly timed article that plays fast and loose with the facts and shines a big bright light on the WaPo’s partisanship. I wonder if the editors there still think it was a good idea to run it.