Even after Mediaite retracted its claim that a link to a news story from The Drudge Report gives a story “credibility,” it continued to claim that such a link conveys “significance” and makes the linked story worthy of further discussion. But many of the stories promoted by Drudge are entirely fabricated.
Mediaite: Drudge linking to a story gives it “credibility,” makes it “significant” enough for Mediaite to cover
Martel claimed Drudge link gave story “credibility” , “significance and impact.” On May 1, Mediaite's Francis Martel wrote a story on years-old, long-since denied rumors about an “Obama Sex Scandal,” that had been rehashed by the National Enquirer and promoted by Drudge. In the original version of her story, Martel wrote: “Somewhat adding to its credibility is the fact that the Drudge Report, whose success is directly attributed to breaking the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998, felt confident enough in its accuracy to give it prime real estate on the site.” The story was later revised to read that a link from Drudge gave the story “significance and impact” .
Managing editor Hall “stand[s] behind” statement that a Drudge link adds “significance and impact.” Mediaite's managing editor Colby Hall wrote in a May 1 entry: “We have a smart audience of savvy media watchers who will know that when Drudge picks up a story, that in addition to his base of readers, media decision makers will also be seeing it and making difficult decisions about what to do with it. The days of a paternalistic media protecting the populace from questionable information has passed. Good or bad for the country and the world, it is. That is where we are today.” Hall added: “Originally, the writer Frances Martel claimed that a link on the Drudge Report added 'credibility' -- that has since been changed to 'significance and impact,' which I stand behind.”
Mediaite founder Abrams: A news story is “significant... now that Drudge linked to it.” In a May 1 comment to Martel's story, site founder Dan Abrams wrote: “The author, Frances Martel, is reporting it as a significant story, at least about the media, now that Drudge linked to it. I may not entirely agree with Frances' reasoning as to why that makes it significant, but there is no question she is right that with Drudge's millions of eyeballs, it should be covered by a media site.” He added: “I understand those who say that just because Drudge links to the Enquirer that does not make it news. True enough. But when Drudge links to a story suggesting the President of the United States might be having an affair, that is at least a -media- story for a media website.”
Mediaite's Christopher: “Of course it's worth reporting,” but Enquirer report was “complete crap” and Martel's story wasn't “how I would have reported it.” * In a May 3 post, Mediaite's Tommy Christoper wrote: “The story of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter seems to have raised a media meta-quandary about how to treat stories reported by The National Enquirer. Should we report on them? Should we report that they're being reported? Throw in a Drudge link to an already explosive rumor like, say, the President covering up an affair with a former campaign staffer, and it's damn near irresistible. In reality, though, there's not much of a dilemma for those who cover media. Of course it's worth reporting." Christopher added, “Let me start by saying that the National Enquirer story looks to be, in my eyes at least, complete crap” and listed a number of problems with the Enquirer story. Christopher also expressed concerns with, among other things, the “opinion and analysis” in Martel's story and said he would have covered Enquirer report differently than Martel had:
Finally, there's the issue of Mediaite's coverage of this story. You might have noticed that my description of how this story should be covered doesn't exactly match up with the way our Frances Martel initially covered it.
One of the great things about this site is the diversity of voices here. It is for this reason that I have the freedom to express my opinion about what was written here. Mediaite does a lot of original reporting, but when “re-reporting,” the emphasis will naturally tip toward opinion and analysis. While I might have concerns with the opinion and analysis in Frances' story, as I do with many stories here and elsewhere, the last thing I want is for there to be any chill on the diversity we have achieved here. Rabid partisans already have plenty of places to go. I value the ability to agree to disagree.
As Colby Hall noted, there is nothing wrong with a media site reporting on this story, in and of itself. You've just read how I would have reported it. Even absent the Drudge link, the Edwards story does make the Enquirer's political stories worthy of scrutiny. I think that Frances misplaced that scrutiny on the details of the allegations, and the potential narrative that might emerge, rather than on the merits of the Enquirer's reporting.
Still, the freedom that Frances exercised in this story is the same freedom that allows me to write this, or to get up in Andrew Breitbart's grill when he's trying to avoid a question. You don't see Mediaite Shustering me off of Twitter at the first sign of trouble.
If you're looking for a site that confirms what you already believe, this is probably not the place for you. If you like writers who challenge you, and at times even anger you but often make you think, then I believe you will enjoy Mediaite.*
Drudge regularly promotes or invents false stories
The long, long list of false, misleading, or entirely concocted stories promoted by Matt Drudge on his website include:
Drudge promoted fake attack on McCain volunteer. On October 23, 2008, Drudge ran the headline “SHOCK: MCCAIN VOLUNTEER ATTACKED AND MUTILATED IN PITTSBURGH,” along with another headline reading: "'B' CARVED INTO 20-YEAR OLD WOMAN'S FACE... DEVELOPING..."
Drudge later linked the headline to a report on McCain 2008 volunteer Ashley Todd's claim that an Obama supporter had attacked her and had a “B” carved into her cheek, and later posted a picture of Todd with her purported injuries. Todd confessed to making up the story a day later.
Drudge falsely suggested that Obama had called Palin a “pig” . On September 9, 2008, Drudge posted a picture of Sarah Palin along with the headline “OBAMA: 'LIPSTICK ON A PIG, STILL A PIG,' ” suggesting that Obama had been speaking about Palin.
Obama was actually referring to what he described as a “list” of Sen. McCain's policies and their similarity to the policies of President Bush.
OBAMA: Let's just list this for a second. John McCain says he's about change, too. Except -- and so I guess his whole angle is, “Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. We're really gonna shake things up in Washington.” That's not change. That's just calling some -- the same thing, something different. But you know, you can -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.
Drudge claimed CNN's Blitzer was given a warning by the Clinton campaign; Blitzer denied. On November 13, 2007, Drudge wrote an anonymously sourced item claiming that CNN host Wolf Blitzer had been “warned” that there was to be “no ganging up on Hillary” in an upcoming Democratic debate where Blitzer was scheduled to serve as the moderator.
That same day, Blitzer denied the charge on CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Not true. No one has pressured me. No one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me. ... No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that. ... I have no idea where it's coming from. I have no idea who generated this story, but I can tell you I have not felt any pressure whatsoever.
Drudge posted photo of Obama with misleading, suggestive captions. On July 10, 2009, Reuters sent out the following picture:
In fact, video of the event showed Obama looking at the steps as he walked down them to pose for a picture. Fox host Greta Van Susteren referred to the picture as “the lying picture that's going around the Web.”
Drudge falsely claimed Hillary Clinton supported a “national smoking ban” . On August 8, 2007, Drudge linked to a New York Post story with the headline “Hillary Supports National Smoking Ban” . In fact, the story Drudge linked to said exactly the opposite: “asked whether the feds should impose a nationwide ban, Clinton deferred to local governments.”
Drudge promoted video inaccurately claiming Democratic senator Max Baucus was “drunk” on the senate floor. Days after a denial from Sen. Max Baucus' spokesperson as well as a story by reporter Dave Weigel noting that “Baucus talks like this all the time. ... Baucus mumbles occasionally. OK, a lot. Accusing him of being drunk on the job, without evidence, is shameful” , on December 29,2009, Drudge still linked to a video of Baucus with the headline “DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM BAUCUS SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR...”
Brill's Content survey: 32% of Drudge “exclusives” were found to be untrue. In a survey of 51 stories Drudge claimed to be exclusives between January and September 1998, the magazine Brill's Content found that “31 were actually exclusive stories. Of those, 32% were untrue, 36% were true and the remaining 32% were of debatable accuracy.”
* Media Matters has updated this item to include Christopher's criticism of the Enquirer story and his statement that he would have covered the Enquirer report differently than Martel had.