The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

… And the Pulitzer Prize for Recycling Second-Hand Rumors From HuffPo …

Posted on | August 1, 2012 | 32 Comments

. . . goes to the Washington Post:

Mind you the Washington Post isn’t citing an unnamed source that has talked to them, they are reporting that someone else (Harry Reid) claims that an unnamed source said something.
I don’t claim to have been in this business all that many years, but I know enough that I can’t report hearsay.

Here’s the WaPo headline:

Harry Reid: Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years

The article is just Ed O’Keefe recycling the interview that Sam Stein and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post did with Reid. Ed can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and ask Reid’s office how in the name of hell the Senate Majority Leader justifies this kind of reckless smear:

A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.
“Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying.
“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?
“You guys have said his wealth is $250 million,” Reid went on. “Not a chance in the world. It’s a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don’t pay taxes for 10 years when you’re making millions and millions of dollars.”

Instead of doing some, y’know, reporting on this remarkable claim, the WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe lets it go with this bland acknowledgement:

Neither Reid nor his aides would identify the alleged investor, HuffPo reported.

Grant that Reid’s wild accusation — “financial McCarthyism,” you might call it — is newsworthy even if it is absolutely false. And it almost certainly is false, Dan Primack of Fortune says. But is it now an accepted practice at the Washington Post just to repeat whatever politicians say (in interviews with reporters for other publications) without bothering to do any independent reporting at all?

This is one of those “too-good-to-check” situations, and there are obvious problems with Reid’s claim. Isn’t the provenance of the claim intrinsically suspicious? How the hell would an investor in Bain Capital know how much taxes Mitt Romney paid? (Phil Klein made this point.) And why would a Bain investor call Harry Reid to make this claim? Who is this mysterious investor who’s got Harry Reid on speed-dial? Do they talk regularly? What else has he told Harry?

These questions — who, what, when, where, why, how? — are obvious, as I say, and reporters are supposed to ask them. However, if it is now the practice of the WaPo to repeat anything said by anybody on the Internet, why isn’t Ed O’Keefe quoting Allahpundit?

By the way, some random guy on the Internet told me Obama was born in Kenya. Now, do I know that’s true? Well, I’m not certain. But let me just toss it out there.

Maybe arrange a midnight meeting in a parking garage or something.

UPDATE: Breaking news that Harry Reid shtupped Nancy Pelosi “in the Senate cloakroom”? Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain. But I’m obligated under The Ed O’Keefe Rule of Journalism to repeat every crazy thing I find on the Internet.