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March 30, 2005
ABC, Washington Post Stand By Schiavo Memo ... Mostly

Howard Kurtz addresses the controversy over the memo released by ABC under the headline "GOP Talking Points Memo" by claiming that neither ABC nor the Washington Post meant to imply that the memo originated with Republicans -- only that it was circulated to them:

ABC and The Post say their reports on the Schiavo memo were accurate and carefully worded. The document caused a stir because it described the Schiavo controversy as "a great political issue" that would excite "the pro-life base" and be "a tough issue for Democrats," singling out Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson. Two days after the memo was reported, the Republican-controlled Congress approved a bill, signed by Bush, to transfer jurisdiction of Schiavo's case from Florida courts to the federal judiciary in an effort to restore the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube. ...

The controversy erupted March 18 when veteran correspondent Linda Douglass reported on "World News Tonight": "ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators, explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case."

Two days later, a Post article by Mike Allen and Manuel Roig-Franzia said: "An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters."

Neither report said Republicans had written the memo, although they may have left that impression, and they included no comment on the memo from party leaders. ABC's Web site went further than Douglass's on-air report with the headline: "GOP Talking Points on Terri Schiavo."

They may have left that impression? Yes, they may certainly have -- which is why the entire press corps has treated the memo as genuine and the ABC and Post reports as accurate in that regard. When ABC titled the memo, "GOP Talking Points Memo", that's more than just an impression. It identifies the memo as sourced by the GOP, an allegation from which Kurtz and the Post have now retreated. Now we hear that no one can determine the actual source of the memo, and that neither of the initial reporters apparently even asked anyone from the GOP about its origin. (Michelle Malkin notes that this article, with a Washington Post byline, states specifically that the memo was given to Republican politicians by "party leaders".)

Howard Kurtz can talk about how "carefully worded" the reports were, but the fact is that they clearly meant to associate the memo -- the unprofessionally typed, factually deficient, and improperly formatted memo -- with the GOP. If they didn't, then Kurtz by implication must condemn the rest of the press corps for a type of functional illiteracy for not getting the nuance of their careful wording correct. And for all the care that Kurtz says the two media outlets put into the wording to avoid that characterization, he never asks about how the ABC headline got onto the story, nor does he mention any steps either organization have taken to correct the impression their articles have obviously left with fellow journalists in the Exempt Media.

Kurtz once again acts as an apologist rather than an objective news critic, yet another disappointment he can add to his non-coverage of the Eason Jordan scandal.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 30, 2005 6:13 AM

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