The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Kerry/Polier: nagging news questions

Since it seems Drudge had squat to start with, it's hardly surprising that the denial by Alexandra Polier to AP was enough to kill the story.

One or two points remains, however - links via today's Romenesko, mostly.

On the MO of the top US press, for instance. Joe Hagan in the NY Observer has MSNBC senior political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell saying about Drudge
If his credibility wasn't so high, there wouldn't have been any confusion about how to handle this non-story.

Pavlovian reaction to the Clinton/Lewinsky thing.

He rounds up the way the story spread. Such as Bill O'Reilly stirring the pot with references to slime politics.

And, for those editors with sensitive souls, the establishment of the meta-story - commenting on the commentary: according to WaPo's Dana Milbank on NPR,
Yes, of course. The typical way these rumors wind up in the mainstream is they wind up on the Internet, then they wind up in the British publications, which seem to have a lower standard of accuracy. Then they make it into the American tabloids market, like the New York Post, and eventually it filters into the mainstream. If there's accuracy to the rumor then of course we're going to be covering it. If there's no accuracy to the rumor, most likely we'll do it as we did this week, and that is have our media writer write about everybody else writing about it.

And this indeed is Howard Kurtz's effort on the subject.

It's a variation on the O'Reilly theme. As Newsweek's Howard Fineman (quoted by Hagan) puts in the mouth of Richard Nixon (now, there's a name to conjure - or smear - with!),
Some people say I should attack so and so for being a communist, but I would never do such a thing.

There is, as any well-informed journalist (British or American) will tell you, a rule [1] in the law of defamation called the repetition rule. The fact that a person is passing on someone else's allegation provides no protection.

Similarly, a paper that reports the press coverage of a dubious story is itself reporting that story. And is the sleazier for casuistically pretending to moral superiority by adopting the indirect route.

And apparent loose ends from the story itself:

Talon News said that
Polier taped an interview with one of the major television networks at Christmas substantiating the alleged affair.

It's an out there site, true. But is that completely made up?

And what happened with that apparent volte-face from Alex Polier's parents? One moment, her father's calling Kerry a sleazeball [2]; the next, he's saying he's going to vote for him!

There are other loose ends, I'm sure.

Do those just get left where they are? Or do the whited sepulchres of the US journalism have teams rummaging through dustbins as I write?

Is this a question of Not Invented Here: papers not wishing to be seen to build on a Drudge story, for fear of giving him credit?

Or are papers holding back on pulling the trigger - as Dems on the Senate Intelligence Committee were supposed to be doing some months ago; waiting till the Convention, perhaps, to box Kerry in, time-wise?

And leave open the possibility that this might just be a little groundbait from Drudge, in movie arc terms, an Act Two set-back, in anticipation of some scoop arriving later on in the campaign, in time for a big Act Three finish.

Perhaps he's already got his ace in the hole.

(Whatever it is, expect to find out here last: breaking news is for larger pockets or stronger constitutions. I prefer mine with the fish already wrapped in it...)

  1. To judge by the oral evidence sessions and his Report, clearly Lord Hutton's favourite, though he didn't mention it by name, that I can recall.

  2. To the Telegraph (February 15).


And whatever happened to the friend of Polier's mentioned in the Drudge piece:
A close friend of the woman first approached a reporter late last year claiming fantastic stories...

(Just an aide-memoire for my benefit, you understand...)

And an URL dump: here, here and here.

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