The Washington Post has fallen and it can't get up

Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire (via new owner of the Washington Post has got a messy situation on his hands, and unless he steps in, it appears that his new property is in danger of losing the prestige that was its primary asset. After a false hit piece on the Koch Brothers claiming they were the largest holder of Canadian oil sands land rights was devastatingly debunked by John Hinderaker of Powerline (see also: Washington Post busted!), the authors of the incorrect article responded conceding nothing, not apologizing or retracting their falsehoods, but only made their situation worse. As Jonah Goldberg noted:

… they do a good case of laying out (some of) the reasons why they never should have written the piece in the first place. But then they close by claiming they were justified because the outrage their shoddy attack provoked proves the relevance of the Kochs.

John Hayward at Breitbart was even more direct, noting that the very first statement (“First, regarding the political leaning of the group that brought this story to our attention, our article makes clear its left-wing origins, the controversial nature of its earlier claims, and its political agenda.”) in the follow-up was a “lie”:

Go to the original Washington Post story and search for the words "liberal," "left," or even "progressive."  You will not find them.  Nowhere is the group that supplied the Post with its bogus report described as anything other than "activist."

The dispue has nbow broken out beyond the confines of the conservative blogosphere. Brit Hume, a widely esteemed figure in the Beltway power structure, tweeted:


And Jonathon Adler of the Wapo’s new conservative blog also took issue:

 Where the first story proclaimed the Kochs are the largest lease holder in the Canadian oil sands, Mufson and Eilperin now say they are “one of the region’s largest.” That’s quite a difference. Indeed, if the Kochs own leases for 1.1 million acres, as claimed in the original story, they are not “the biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands.” At least two other companies (Shell and Cenovus) hold more. Further, the data Mufson and Eilperin offer on one company, Canadian Natural Resources, is incomplete. That may matter as CNR appears to have quite extensive holdings based upon maps posted by Hinderaker

Scott Johnson, Hinderaker’s Powerline colleague has weighed in, and raises some very important points that Bezos ought to be thinking over carefully:

They reiterate one of their assertions through citation to “industry sources we consider highly authoritative.” Hey, they sound like real journalists! They apparently hope the sound will suppress the suspicion that something funny is happening here. They respond without engaging John’s refutation of their post. They are going through the motions.

Even so, I can’t help but wonder about the “industry sources” that Mufson and Eilperin consider “highly authoritative.” Is there a reason their identity must be kept confidential? “Sources close to the president,” I get. But confidential “industry sources” with superior knowledge of the mineral leases taken out on the Canadian oil sands? I suspect they are about as “highly authoritative” as Bill Burkett, of Rathergate fame. (If you would like a quick refresher course, see this.)

Mufson and Eilperin, at least, give no reason we should believe a word they say. They rely on their status as staff writers or reporters for the Washington Post and the aptitude with which they can deploy the lingo of journalists fulfilling their traditional function consistent with professional norms.

The Post holds itself out as a newspaper impartially delivering the news. It obligates itself to uphold standards of fairness and accuracy.

Where are the senior editors of the Washington Post on this? Where is Glenn Kessler, he who awards one to four Pinnochios to lies and half-truths from others? Their silence is already an embarrassment to the institution, and will become corrosive the longer they fail to address the false story. Jeff Bezos may see his property plummet in prestige and influence.

Stay tuned.