Politico publishes first -- "verifies" facts later


Early this afternoon, the Politico's Chris Frates posted a breathless story about a "memo obtained by POLITICO" that had been "sent Thursday to Democratic staff" in Congress.

Frates' story -- which coupled the memo with Republican allegations that "Democrats were playing a shell game" with the cost of health care reform and the so-call "doc fix" -- said nothing about where he got the memo and in no way suggested that there were any doubts about its authenticity.

Any reasonable reader would have assumed that since Frates simply wrote that the memo had been sent to "Democratic staff," a Democrat had leaked it to Politico.

As it turns out, that's apparently not what happened.

After TPM raised questions about the report, Frates' story was removed and replaced with the following:

An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. POLITICO has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document's origin.

So only now, after its story has been challenged, is Politico acknowledging that its source for the memo was unnamed "Republicans." That detail appeared nowhere in Frates' original story.

This is particularly significant since Politico also appears to be acknowledging that it posted the story without having "absolutely verif[ied] the document's origin."

In other words, two days before one of the biggest votes in recent memory, Politico published this article based only on Republican sources -- a fact it failed to disclose -- and without confirming that it was accurate. Moreover, they apparently rushed it up just in time for Rush Limbaugh to talk about it on his radio show, which he did. At length.

This has now become an issue not about whether the memo is real, but about the Politico itself.

As the right-wing American Spectator's Phil Klein wrote on Twitter, "Even were it to turn out to be real at this pt, they've just said that they dont verify stuff b4 posting."

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
The Politico
Chris Frates
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