Because journalists have a beeline to the other world.
Less than 48 hours after the Washington Post published a major, 5,000 word exposé that portrays Mitt Romney as a homophobic, high school bully, the story has started to unravel. Jason Horowitz’s profile alleged that Romney high school chum Stu White has “long been bothered” by an unconfirmed incident in which Romney supposedly cut the hair of a fellow student. But White wasn’t present at the alleged incident, Romney doesn’t remember it, the alleged victim has been dead for eight years, and White only learned about the incident decades after it supposedly happened.
In response to that, the Post today airbrushed the story. Until today, Horowitz’s story read:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
Today it reads:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
The Post did not publicly acknowledge that alteration for hours — more on that below. It just appeared in the online version. Also today, Lauber’s family has come out to contradict key parts of the story, and they further suggest that the Post smeared their deceased family member, who obviously is in no position to defend himself. Despite Lauber’s having been deceased since 2004, the Horowitz story directly quotes him, through another so-called witness to the haircut event. Is it standard Post practice to quote the dead, and use them as props in political stories?
Thursday afternoon I tweeted and emailed Horowitz directly about the White discrepancy. Horowitz never responded and has gone silent on Twitter, but today, the Post quietly altered the story to clean up that problem. The paper is evidently paying attention to criticisms of the story, but not responding directly to queries about it. This morning, I emailed the Post ombudsman about the White timeline problem and the Lauber family’s reaction to Horowitz’s story. I sent the ombudsman two polite emails on the subject. The ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, has not responded at all. But while I have been putting this report together, the Post did publish an editor’s note regarding the White timeline.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that White “has long been bothered” by the Lauber incident. White later clarified in a subsequent interview that he has been disturbed by the incident since he learned of it several weeks ago from a former classmate, before being contacted by The Washington Post.
The editor’s note raises more questions: Who is the classmate, and where did the classmate hear about the haircut story? In what context did the unidentified classmate tell it to Stu White? It’s possible that Horowitz brought it up to the classmate over the course of working on the story, who then told it to White. If that’s the case, Horowitz tainted the witnesses.
The Jason Horowitz story is no small matter. Its release coincided perfectly with the week’s messaging from President Obama. It depicted Obama’s rival, Mitt Romney, in a sharply negative light. It was a front-page, 5,000+ word story that must have taken weeks or even months to write. Significant resources went into the production of that story. Yet the Post has gone silent as cracks have started to appear in it.
I have sent Mr. Pexton a third email on the subject, asking questions raised by the editor’s note. The ombudsman, who is supposed to be the readers’ representative at the newspaper, has not responded.
The older sister of Mitt Romney’s former high school classmate said she has no knowledge of any bullying incident involving her brother and the GOP presidential candidate.
When ABC News showed her the story, Christine Lauber’s eyes welled up with tears and she became agitated.
She described her brother as a “very unusual person.”
“He didn’t care about running with the peer group,” Christine Lauber said. “What’s wrong with that?”
Betsy Lauber, one of John Lauber’s three sisters, spoke with ABC News Tuesday night regarding the accuracy of the story.
“The family of John Lauber is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of John is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda. There will be no more comments from the family,” she said.
Romney has since apologized for what he said were “pranks” in high school but has said he doesn’t remember the specific event.
Romney said “homosexuality was the furthest thing from his mind” when it came to the jokes he played on classmates.
So we’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. I am soooo much more interested in Obama’s applications to college (did he apply as an American citizen?) and please, please, please tell us what he studies and what his grades were. I am not interested in the high school record of either man. But, since the can of worms has been opened, how were Obama’s high school grades? I asked because he started out at an ok college and transferred to an Ivy League school. What is the story there?
Even more importantly, journalists, how can we have a functioning society if the people entrusted with sharing important news just refuse to do their jobs?
Coincidentally the Obama administration decided to make an issue of gay marriage just as this story broke. Is there a single adult in America with an IQ higher than a turnip who believes that wasn’t coordinated between the White House and the media?