MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow tore into Politico Wednesday for reprinting Republican “spin” without reporting the actual truth.
Politico reported that Republicans had delayed a meeting with President Barack Obama because he had “ambushed” them at a previous meeting back in January. But Maddow pointed out that there is little truth to that version of events.
According to Glenn Thrush at Politico, Republicans rescheduled a meeting with Obama because they are distrustful after he “crashed” their January retreat and humiliated them on national television.
“The roots of the partisan standoff that led to the postponement of the bipartisan White House summit scheduled for Thursday date back to January, when President Barack Obama crashed a GOP meeting in Baltimore to deliver a humiliating rebuke of House Republicans,” Thrush reported.
Obama’s last-minute decision to address the House GOP retreat – and the one-sided televised presidential lecture many Republicans decried as a political ambush – has left a lingering distrust of Obama invitations and a wariness about accommodating every scheduling request emanating from the West Wing, aides tell POLITICO.
“He has a ways to go to rebuild the trust,” said a top Republican Hill staffer. “The Baltimore thing was unbelievable. There were [House Republicans] who only knew Obama was coming when they saw Secret Service guys scouting out the place.”
“Today cable news all day was driven by a story from that same website, Politico, that was purportedly about that same real event but was completely made up,” Maddow said. “I don’t mean to say it was completely made up by Politico. Quite transparently it was made up by unnamed Republican staffers who were trying to inject a new anti-Obama story into the news today that didn’t have any basis in fact whatsoever. Those were the folks who made it up. It was Politico who printed it.”
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo had a memory of the January event that was somewhat different from the Republican version.
“I thought that the House Republicans invited Obama,” Marshall wrote. “And he accepted. Indeed, I remember for what I think were several days in advance our Eric Kleefeld telling me how excited he was to see a US equivalent of the Brits’ question time.”
“So was it an ambush? Well, My God, not even close. Here’s the press release from Mike Pence, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, thanking the president on January 13th for ‘accept[ing] our invitation to meet with the Republican Conference later this month,’” Marshall continued.
“In other words, that’s more than two weeks before these House Republicans who must have spent the month in a sensory deprivation chamber were stunned to see the president’s motorcade driving up unannounced to crash their party.”
A story at The Hill the day before the event reported, “Emboldened by an unexpected victory in Massachusetts and frustrated with a ‘partisan’ State of the Union address, House Republicans are eager to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.”
Maddow was particularly offended by the way Politico printed this quote from a Republican staffer: “There were [House Republicans] who only knew Obama was coming when they saw Secret Service guys scouting out the place.”
“I am sure some unnamed Republican operative said exactly those words and that’s why there are quotes in the article to justify those words being written,” Maddow said. “But just printing something somebody said is not itself — what do you call it? News, right. It’s publicity. And in this case, it’s publicizing somebody’s totally fake, untrue story about a knowable, reported on, real thing.”
Later in the day, Politico edited their story to remove that quote.
The updated story simply read, “‘He has a ways to go to rebuild the trust,’ said a top Republican Hill staffer. ‘The Baltimore thing was unbelievable.’”
“When the folks at Politico today revised the article to make it less lie-ish after facing some criticism for this online today, they just dropped the second part of that quote. And they kept the first part. They kept the attack on the president that preceded the totally, provably, untrue thing,” Maddow observed.
“They’re now quoting the source that we know lied to them. A source who we know is telling lies for the purposes of political spin. And even as that has been proven by Politico‘s own editing, they keep in the spin! They keep it in there,” she said.
“It is true that someone has said those things. That is not the same thing as those things being true. There is a difference and it is really, really, really important,” Maddow concluded.
This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 17, 2010.