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  • The WaPo's missing link

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Joe Strupp and Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher try to get to the bottom of a mystery swirling around the Washington Post's web page:

    We put together the above quiz prompted by a flurry of postings all along the liberal blogosphere after someone discovered there was a Google url link to a Washington Post web story or video that seemingly went up last night -- but now led to an empty page. But since the Comments section on that page remains active, dozens of visitors have now typed in messages ripping the Post or pleading with it to restore or explain. Complicating matters, another Web detective found a separate url suggesting that the Post may have posted documents related to the same story, also now missing.

    The story -- whatever it is -- swirls around one Tom Gosinski (see photo), who was a close observer of the well-known, but not often mentioned these days, episode from the 1990s involving Cindy McCain's drug addiction and a charity she and Gosinki both worked for. He re-emerged this week -- the web site Raw Story did a major piece -- but has not yet hit the mainstream media.

    (via Atrios)

    At this point, we don't know what's going on at the Post; maybe the story or video will appear soon. And maybe it will turn out to be an inconsequential story.

    But if it turns out that the Post is spiking a story that could damage John McCain's candidacy, it's worth keeping in mind that this wouldn't be the first time the paper has killed a story that could hurt a Republican presidential candidate shortly before election day. Here's a reminder of what happened in 1996:

    THE DOLE CAMPAIGN WAS PARALYZED by more than geography. In August the campaign learned that two major news organizations--The Washington Post (owned by the same company that owns NEWSWEEK) and Time--had interviewed a woman who claimed to have had an extramarital affair with Dole in the late '60s, in the waning years of his marriage to his first wife. The campaign sent a lawyer, Doug Wurth, to talk to her. At a meeting at the Willard Hotel in early September, she told Wurth that the relationship had begun in 1968, when she was 35 and Dole was 44, and had ended after Dole's divorce in 1972. Wurth made no attempt to challenge the woman's story.

    [...]

    Dole's advisers feared the story would wreck the campaign. ""It was a mortal threat,'' said one aide. The campaign was planning to stress the argument that Dole was more trustworthy than Clinton. ""It's the one thing we have--the fact that he is an upstanding guy with high morals.'' The woman's story, if published in the Post, ""wipes it all out,'' said this aide.

    [...]

    In the Post's newsroom and executive offices on 15th Street in Washington, a fierce debate raged over the ethics of printing the story. Many of the reporters, including Woodward, wanted to publish. They argued that Dole had made trust and character an issue, and thus adultery, even from the distant past, was relevant. Most of the editors, however, accepted the distinction between public trust and private actions. The Post and its owners, the Graham family, did not want to get into the business of investigating the dalliances of presidential candidates.

    By Thursday, Oct. 3, the Post had decided that it would be unfair to print the story just before the first debate, scheduled for that Sunday night. Informed by Woodward, the campaign was hugely relieved. Dole's staffers believed that the closer they got to the election, the harder it would be for the Post to publish such a sensational article. According to a close friend, Dole was finally able to push the story to the back of his mind.

    Much more detail can be found here.

  • We wish The National Enquirer editor would stop lecturing journalists

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    David Perel is at it again today in the opinion pages of the WSJ. We mean, the tabloid gets one political scandal story right (i.e. John Edwards) and now we're supposed to listen him Perel preach about how courageous his checkbook-writing reporters are? We'll pass.

    Worse, Perel re-tells the Palin fake pregnancy story and claims that after the rumor was posted on Daily Kos, the "mainstream media instantly joined the fray, questioning Mr. McCain's people about the report and triggering Mrs. Palin to announce that her teenage daughter was pregnant."

    Where's the proof? We haven't seen the name of one reporter who pressured the McCain campaign about Palin's pregnancy. We understand that McCain aides claim the jackals in the press were demanding (off the record, of course) answers about the pregnancy rumor. But to date, they have not been able to name a single mainstream reporter who went there.

    So it's ironic that in an essay that lectures the press on how do conduct itself, Perel simply passes along gossip as fact.

  • MSNBC & 9/11

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    After spending hours airing nothing but archival footage of their real-time coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks, MSNBC brings you a "news quiz" to assess "how much information" you were "taking in" during media coverage of the attacks. Just beneath the "quiz," MSNBC provides links to similar features, including: "What's your entertainment I.Q.?"

    How long before they release the official MSNBC 9/11 board game?

  • Howard Fineman can read minds

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT & MARK BOCHKIS

    Specifically, Clinton minds. It's quite a skill: "I know, the Clintons are difficult to deal with and probably hope Obama fails."

    Both Bill and Hillary are campaigning for Obama. But according to Fineman, they actually want him to lose. Talk about an historical race.

  • WaPo notes voters' confusion over candidates' tax plans -- but does little to clear things up

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Today's Washington Post includes an article about voters' misperceptions about the presidential candidates' tax plans -- an article that fails to clarify much about their actual proposals. Here's how the Post explains the distribution of the candidates' tax cuts:

    If voters hear any part of Obama's message, it's his vow to treat taxpayers differently depending on their income. Under his plan, lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts, while families in the top 1 percent of the income scale would see an average annual tax increase of nearly $100,000, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

    McCain, by contrast, vows to cut taxes for all families, but his plan would concentrate those benefits among the same families who would suffer under Obama. While middle-income families would see an average tax cut of about $321 under McCain, according to the Tax Policy Center, families in the top 1 percent would see an average tax cut of nearly $49,000.

    Notice anything missing? The Post tells us the "average tax cut" for "middle-income families" under McCain's plan: $321, according to the Tax Policy Center. Is that more or less than such families would get under Obama's plan? That's a fairly basic question, and one you would think an article about the candidates' tax plans would answer. But the Post says only that under Obama's plan, "lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts." Well, great. How large? More than under McCain's plan? Less? The Post doesn't tell readers. Is it any wonder that voters don't understand the candidates' tax plans?

    For the record, the Tax Policy Center -- the very organization the Post relied on for its information -- says Obama would give bigger tax cuts to middle income taxpayers than McCain would:

    The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers (see Figure 2). By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.

    McCain would lift after-tax incomes an average of about 3 percent, or $1,400 annually, for middle-income taxpayers by 2012. But, in sharp contrast to Obama, he would cut taxes for those in the top 1% by more than $125,000, raising their after-tax income an average 9.5 percent.

  • FactCheck.org gets overexcited

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Claims Palin has been "slimed" by the press because it has made some inaccurate allegations about her record. So now every time a campaign reporter gets a fact wrong they're "sliming" somebody? Adam Reilly at The Phoenix thinks that's a bit much.

  • In case you were wondering...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    ... how MSNBC would cover the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks: Rest assured, they are doing so with their normal class and grace: they are re-airing their live coverage of those attacks. So, if you'd like to re-live the horror of that morning all over again, MSNBC's your place.

    Otherwise, you might consider checking out HGTV or ESPN for the next several hours.

  • The WaPo plays dumb

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Editorial denounces McCain's lipstick attack as "silly." But the paper remains dutifully silent about its own lipstick coverage or how the press turned the "silly" attack into a blockbuster story.

    For those keeping score this morning, the NYTimes blames the Internet for the non-story while the Post blames McCain. As for the press? it plays no role in the controversy.

  • The Times blames the Internet

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Try to follow this logic:

    There's no question that Senator Obama did not refer to Gov. Sarah Palin as a pig during his talk last night in Virginia. Although the allusion to lipstick within a week of Ms. Palin's popular line at the Republican convention has prompted a great deal of chatter around the Internet.

    So according to the Times, there's no way anyone could suggest that Obama was referring to Palin with his pig comment. No way. But what created the chatter on the Internet was Palin's previous reference at the convention.

    Um, no.

    First of all, the incessant chatter about the comment has been coming not from the Internet but from the mainstream press, and especially cable television, which won't stop talking about the non-story. (See below.)

    And second, what actually prompted the story were erroneous suggestions by reporters at AP, WSJ, and ABC, among others, who claimed the candidate was referring to Palin; claims based solely on the ability of reporters to read the candidate's mind since he made no verbal references to Palin at the time. That in turn was pounced on by the McCain camp as proof of a personal attack.

    This whole episode has been a journalism disgrace. The Times' attempt to blame this non-story on the Internet just adds to the misery.