9 December 1999
Our current howler (part II): Need much more
Synopsis: Where did Connolly get that quote? The Post owes its readers some answers.
Michael Lewis, Too Thumbs-Up?
Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post, 11/29/99
We're not going to waste any more time with this, but we do
think a few last words should be said about what the Post did
last week. On Wednesday, the paper reported a false quote by Gore.
The next day, it built a story around the false quote, which had
been corrected the night before on TV (on a major show). It refused
to correct the "quote" for four more daysand as the
Post refused to correct its mistake, the bogus quote went all
over the world.
Did Connolly's "quote" mean the same thing as what
Gore said, as Connolly's editor told us? Of course not! That is
why the Washington Times switched to the false quote on Tuesday.
The poor Times! Having accidentally used an accurate quote,
it saw the other kids having fun with the Post's ginned-up version.
The bogus "quote" which Connolly "heard" is
the perfect prosecutorial quoteit's the perfect quote for excitable
scribes who want to tell readers that the veep makes things up.
Where in the world did this bogus quote come from? The Washington
Post should tell readers. How did Connolly and Seelye have the
same souped-up quote? On the tape which was played on the
12/1 Hardball, what Gore said was as clear as a bell. The
studentsunlike the Post's inventive scribewere actually sitting
there quietly listening. How did both scribes somehow
hear the wrong thing? The Post ought to tell us that too.
And by the way, does the Post ever plan to stop misreporting
the facts about the Love Story nonsense? Granted, reporters
like Connolly love the talebut does the Post make their scribes
get things right? How can it be, two years later, that
the Post is still misreporting this tale? Do Post writers have
license to novelize newsto improve on the stories they like?
One last point. There is an excellent scribe at the Washington
Post who ought to report this strange story. That is their press-watcher,
Howard Kurtz, who we think is one of Washington's most valuable
journalists. He certainly covers much lesser events. Just last
week, Kurtz published this, about a minor press breakdown in Baltimore:
KURTZ: False note/The Baltimore Sun has no tolerance
for plagiarism, musical or otherwise. The paper last week fired
music critic Stephen Wigler for lifting a paragraph in his review
of the Baltimore Opera Company's performance of "La Traviata."
Editor John Carroll apologized to readers and the opera, saying
Wigler had acknowledged copying the material from a 1993 music
This week, in Washington, another breakdown occurred. Phony
quotes have flown around; it got so silly that one paper, which
first used the accurate quote, switched over to the quote
that was wrong! When the Washington press corps takes license
like that, it's time for Kurtz to report it to readers. Heywe're
concerned about Baltimore music reviews too. But how about something