In November 2007 the Washington Post published an article by staff writer Perry Bacon that detailed "rumors and e-mails circulating on the Internet [that] continue to allege that Obama (D-Ill.) is a Muslim." Bacon and the Post drew widespread criticism for failing to make clear in the article that Barack Obama is not, in fact, Muslim.
Deborah Howell, the Washington Post's Ombudsman at the time, weighed in:
My problems with the story by National Desk political reporter Perry Bacon Jr. and the headline ("Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him") were that Obama's connections to Islam are slender at best; that the rumors were old; and that convincing evidence of their falsity wasn't included in the story.
Post media critic Howard Kurtz also took issue with the article:
Post editors say they were trying to knock down the Obama-is-a-Muslim rumor, but I don't believe the piece was well executed. It didn't read like a debunking piece. There was too much about Obama "denying" or "disputing" allegations rather than just branding them false. This was particularly true in the case of the madrassa he allegedly attended as a child. That charge is bogus, as a CNN interview with a top official at the Indonesian school demonstrated, and the Post story failed to make that clear, in my view.
After all that, you would think the Post would be careful about printing claims that Obama is Muslim without making clear those claims are false, wouldn't you? Take a look at how today's Washington Post describes a recent Tea Party meeting in Tennessee:
About 40 people came to the meeting. They cheered when the organizer, Vince DiCello, told a long-winded joke about a new metal called Pelosium, after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ("its mass keeps getting heavier"). And they murmured in disapproval when he passed around a photograph of Obama with his shoes off -- evidence, DiCello said, that the president prays with Muslims but not Christians ("That's because he is a Muslim," one audience member called out).
No, the Post didn't give any indication whatsoever that Obama is not a Muslim. Not even a denial.
For some reason, it seems difficult for reporters at the Washington Post to understand that debunking a lie occasionally isn't good enough; you have to make clear that it is a lie every time you mention it. Unless, of course, you want people to believe the lie.