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March 7, 2006
Emily Litella Also Works At The Post

The AP started a major controversy with its report on President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina last week. It supposedly discovered new video and transcripts showing that Bush was warned that the levees surrounding New Orleans would break and that the White House was so disengaged that it didn't even bother to ask any questions during the last pre-landing briefing. After stirring up a firestorm, the AP waited until 7 pm on a Friday night to issue a half-hearted correction acknowledging what anyone who actually watched the video or read the transcripts already knew -- that neither were new at all, and neither contained any warnings at all about breaches.

It turns out that the second part of the AP's mistaken report was also untrue, and today the Washington Post became the next organization to emulate Emily Litella and say, "Never mind!"

In the March 4 editorial "Caught on Tape," on the leaked video of a White House briefing before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, we wrote that there was no evidence President Bush, after being briefed on the predicted damage, had asked follow-up questions. In fact, the full transcript shows that after Mr. Bush left the conference, some of his advisers, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, did ask about the involvement of the military and other preparedness issues.

Like the AP, the Post classifies this as a "clarification" rather than a correction, and fails to offer a retraction for their bitter attack on President Bush based on their faulty reporting and fact-checking. Many times the mavens of the Exempt Media discount and disparage bloggers for having no accountability and inferior controls for fact-checking. Yet here the leading newspaper in the United States not only passed along obviously incorrect information without bothering to check the facts, but its editorial board then used that obviously incorrect information to jump on a tar-and-feathering campaign against the President -- for his incurious approach to checking the facts!

The AP took the cowardly way out of the situation with its "clarification", and now the Post has followed suit. A more honest editor would have apologized for the conclusions reached by its own incurious approach to fact-checking and the erroneous conclusion they reached because of it, and they would have issued a retraction on both their reporting and the subsequent editorial. I would have expected this gutless and partisan approach from the New York Times, but it surprises and disappoints me that the Post can't see beyond its biases in this case.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 7, 2006 5:37 AM

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