WaPo's "unimpeachable" source gets Obama quote wrong

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Honestly, if the Post's Deborah Howell's doesn't want to use the power of her ombudsman position for good, why doesn't she give over to somebody who will?

Today's column is a perfect example of Howell refusing to be straight with readers regarding very bad Post journalism. Howell looks at reader complaints regarding a quote from Obama the paper used this week after the candidate addressed Congressional Democrats behind closed doors. The Post reporter wasn't in the room, but a source emailed him the Obama quote: "'I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

The Post's Dana Milbank then used the quote in his column to depict Obama as arrogant.

Asked about using the quote, Milbank said the source was "unimpeachable" and there was no need to verify it with others in attendance. But a couple sentences later Howell notes that "partisan blogs, Obama fans and House aides were disputing the quotation." In fact, it seems quite clear that the Post's source only passed along part of the Obama quote; the part that made him look bad.

Yet Powell still waters her verdict down and leaves readers with the impression that the episode was no big deal.

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