When Matt Drudge released his report yesterday that Condoleezza Rice was the new top contender for the GOP vice presidential nomination, pretty much everyone saw it for what it was -- an attempt to distract the press from the mounting controversy over Mitt Romney's departure date from Bain Capital. It was so transparent and so improbable that even conservatives like Erick Erickson, while appreciative of the intent, were calling it “silly.” But it worked: major newspapers and the network morning shows jumped on the Drudge rumor.
This morning on Today, NBC correspondent Peter Alexander reported on the “new VP speculation” and said the Romney campaign and Drudge wanted to “switch the topic,” but never explained specifically why they wanted the topic switched, noting simply that Romney was “forced to defend his business experience.”
Take special note of this exchange at the end of Alexander's report, which put lie to the whole ridiculous affair:
ALEXANDER: Many conservatives who already doubt Romney's conservative credentials would obviously be deeply upset if Rice were chosen. As one conservative commentator tweeted, Savannah, last night, multiple assurances from Team Romney tonight that Condi is not happening for VP. It would still be a big surprise if she were the choice.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: OK, so it's over before it begins.
The Condi speculation is “over before it begins?” Good thing you just devoted an entire segment to it!
Over at ABC, Good Morning America didn't even bother to note the distraction element to the story. Senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl reported that the rumor came from the Drudge Report, “which has been accurate on Romney before,” prior to laying out the “huge problems” with the Rice speculation.
Meanwhile, the newsroom at Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal gladly played ball with Drudge, treating his thin, un-sourced item as straight news. Under the headline, “Rice's Name Is Floated as Potential VP Choice,” the Journal's Friday edition marveled at how the right-wing site had “set Washington ablaze” and “caused outsized fanfare.” But outsized fanfare from whom? Journal reporters, apparently.
Throughout all of this, no one made mention of the fact that so many of Drudge's previous attempts at original reporting have proven to be almost comically inaccurate -- his VP reporting, in particular.