During her January 7 interview on NBC's Today, Ann Coulter falsely claimed that “the Drudge Report has never had to retract a report.” In fact, the Drudge Report has a track record of posting items that were false on their face or were subsequently exposed as false, and in 1997, issued a retraction regarding a false allegation he posted on his website.
During her January 7 appearance on NBC's Today, author and syndicated columnist Ann Coulter falsely claimed that “the Drudge Report has never had to retract a report.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, the Drudge Report has a track record of posting items that were false on their face or were subsequently exposed as false. Moreover, on August 12, 1997, Matt Drudge did indeed issue a retraction regarding a false allegation he posted about former Clinton senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal's personal life.
Recent examples of false Drudge claims include:
- Pittsburgh “attack”
During the afternoon of October 23, 2008, Drudge seized on McCain campaign volunteer Ashley Todd's allegations that a black man mugged her and, after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car, carved a “B” into her cheek. At 2:54 p.m. ET, Drudge reported Todd's allegations as fact, posting on his website: “Shock: McCain Campaign Volunteer Attacked and Mutilated in Pittsburgh,” along with another headline reading: " 'B' Carved Into 20-Year Old Woman's Face... Developing..."
Drudge did not initially link to a news report for this claim. From the Drudge Report at 2:54 p.m. ET on October 23, 2008:
Drudge eventually added a link to an online article (since updated to include Todd's retraction) by WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh about the alleged attack. From the Drudge Report on October 23 at 3:28 p.m. ET:
As Media Matters noted, Todd's claims were proven to be false on October 24, when Todd reportedly told police she made up her story. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on October 25 that "[a]lmost from the start, Pittsburgh police were skeptical about a young woman's claim that she had been mugged and a 'B' carved into her cheek by an attacker who was provoked by the sight of a John McCain bumper sticker on her car."
On October 24, under a photo of Todd, Drudge posted the headline: “She Made It Up!” :
- Supreme Court “tragedy”
In fact, as the YouTube audio Drudge linked to demonstrates, during a 2001 interview on Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ, Obama did not say it is a “tragedy” that the Supreme Court has not pursued wealth redistribution. The “tragedy” Obama identified was that the civil rights movement “became so court-focused” in trying to effect political and economic justice. Obama stated: “And one of the -- I think the tragedies of the civil rights movement was, because the civil rights movements became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing, and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.”
In addition, on August 12, 1997, Drudge issued a retraction regarding a false allegation posted about Blumenthal's personal life. A Washington Post article (retrieved from Nexis) reported that Drudge “based his report Sunday on anonymous sources” and “claimed that Blumenthal, who began work yesterday as an assistant to President Clinton, 'has a spousal abuse past that has been effectively covered up.' ” The article continued:
Drudge said last night that he is retracting the story. “I apologize if any harm has been done,” he said. “The story was issued in good faith. It was based on two sources who clearly were operating from a political motivation.”
William McDaniel, Blumenthal's attorney, called the report “a despicable and cowardly attempt at political assassination. The Blumenthals are not going to stand for this. ... We don't want a retraction. This is drivel. This is garbage. We intend to prove there isn't a shred of truth in that report. ... He made this up. If he's got sources, they made it up.”
Blumenthal and his wife, Jacqueline, director of the White House fellows program, have been married for 21 years and have two children. They declined to comment.
The publication and retraction in just 24 hours -- and a resulting spate of media inquiries -- underscored the dangers of unverified gossip when harnessed to the lightning speed of the Internet. Drudge, a conservative who does not claim to be a journalist, has admitted publishing wrong information in the past, such as his prediction that Hillary Rodham Clinton would be indicted last year.
In a decision in the subsequent litigation between Blumenthal and Drudge, D.C. Federal District Judge Paul Friedman wrote: “After receiving a letter from plaintiffs' counsel on Monday, August 11, 1997, Complaint, Ex. 6, defendant Drudge retracted the story through a special edition of the Drudge Report posted on his web site and e-mailed to his subscribers.”
From the January 7 edition of NBC's Today:
LAUER: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter is a best-selling author and syndicated columnist. Her latest book is Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and their Assault on America. Ann, good morning, nice to have you here.
COULTER: Good morning. It's great to be here.
LAUER: I want to talk about [Roland] Burris in a second, but let me just get to this little controversy. You've been all over the blogs in the last day or so. We canceled your appearance here on Tuesday, and from what I have been reading, you thought you were banned for life from the show. What did -- were you behind that report?
COULTER: No. I didn't say that. That was from a reliable news report that, by the way, had never -- has never had to retract a report on exploding GM trucks. But I do know that -- like NBC --
LAUER: So, we're either dead, or you weren't banned?
COULTER: It apparently took -- it apparently took eight hours for the Today show to remember that there was a Wednesday show that I could be invited back to. It took the Drudge Report posting that for the Wednesday invitation --
LAUER: You see, but --
COULTER: -- but I'm very happy to be here, Matt Lauer.
COULTER: No. I don't think I'd be sitting here now if it hadn't been a headline on Drudge. But let's get to the book --
COULTER: -- because I do want to talk about the book.
LAUER: But we've had you on so many times in the past. After every book, you've always been invited back. Why would you, all of a sudden --
COULTER: Why would --
LAUER: -- be banned?
COULTER: Why -- I don't know.
LAUER: We made it --
COULTER: I mean, that's not for me to answer what your motives are.
LAUER: We traded you out for [former Britain prime minister] Tony Blair yesterday, and I think that's a pretty good switch.
COULTER: Well, you had more than Tony Blair on for four hours.
LAUER: Yeah. Right. But you were --
COULTER: It's a four-hour show.
LAUER: In your slot, where you were supposed to be yesterday morning, was Tony Blair.
COULTER: And [MSNBC host] Rachel Maddow, and various gossip columnists, and a bear --
LAUER: Afterward. Afterward.
COULTER: The point is, I was canceled twice. And it wasn't until the Drudge Report ran a headline on its own reporting -- and the Drudge Report has never had to retract a report the way --
LAUER: You know -- you know what -- you know what that expression is --
COULTER: -- NBC News has.
LAUER: -- just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you don't have enemies. But anyway, let's get to the --
COULTER: Let's get to the reason --
LAUER: Let me get to Roland Burris first.
COULTER: -- I wanted to be here.