Monday, September 12, 2005

White House lies, WaPo apologizes

What the White House get away with:
The Washington Post, like many news organizations, says it is trying to crack down on the use of anonymous sources. But the paper allowed a "senior administration official" to spin the story of the slow response to Katrina -- with a claim that turned out to be false.

On Sept. 4, the paper cited the "senior Bush official" as saying that as of the day before, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco "still had not declared a state of emergency." As The Post noted in a correction, Blanco, a Democrat, had declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26.

Liberal bloggers have unloaded on The Post. Wrote Arianna Huffington: "Why were the Post reporters so willing to blindly accept the words of an administration official who obviously had a partisan agenda -- and to grant the official anonymity?"

Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz calls the incident "a bad mistake" that happened right on deadline. "We all feel bad about that," he says. "We should not have printed the information as background information, and it should have been checked. We fell down on the desk."

Spencer Hsu, the article's co-author, says he "tried to make clear that the source came from the administration, and that he was blaming the locals, which I believe our story made clear and broke ground in explaining by uncovering the National Guard dispute."

Should the paper identify the source who provided bad information? "We don't blow sources, period, especially if we don't have reason to believe the source in this case actually lied deliberately," Hsu says.
Maybe next time they'll think twice on the anonymity and the truthfulness of any spin emanating from the White House pack.