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Rex in Regno suo superiores habet Deum et Legem.

The King in his Realm hath two superiors: God and the Law. -- Henry Care (1646-1688) on English liberties and the Magna Carta


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Hotline Editor Covers Up Smear on Giffords Rival

This afternoon I watched my Twitter feed scroll with the horrific unfolding news of the shooting of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) at a Congressional event outside of a Tucson grocery store by some crazed gunman. At the time, news channels were reporting that Giffords had died.

Suddenly one tweet caught my eye. It was a stomach-turning dispatch from Jeremy Jacobs, the editor of National Journal’s On Call online column:

What? That’s sounds disgusting. To schedule an “exciting” announcement barely an hour after your rival has been murdered would be beyond heartless.

So I went to the link, Jesse Kelly’s website. Here’s what I found, and what @HotlineJeremy would have seen just moments before.

If you click on the picture, you can zoom in for a clearer view. Note the date of the post on the left side, right between “Exciting Announcement” and “Event Date.” It clearly shows that Kelly scheduled this announcement back on Tuesday, January 4, 2010, long before any tragedy had befallen Giffords or his district.

Jacobs’ tweet, however, clearly implied that Kelly was behaving like a vulture and plotting to profit from the murder of his opponent. That’s a fairly vile thing to assume of someone. In making such an implication, Jacobs belied his animosity towards Republicans by not even bothering to say, “Wait, let me check this despicable thing out before I run with it.”

Instead he joined in with the liberal blogosphere, where they pointed fingers at the Tea Party and Sarah Palin’s “target list” (even though both Daily Kos and the DCCC had Giffords on their own “target” lists) and made any preposterous smear they could invent to paint the right ugly and guiltydespite all evidence to the contrary and calls to not politicize a shooting in earlier instances. (Gateway Pundit has an excellent collection of reports on today’s events and the hideousness of today’s actions by the left-wing and the media. Even the National Journal couldn’t help piling on with left-wing spin.)

But Jacobs is a professional journalist. He must be held to a higher standard than the cesspool known as the Daily Kos.

I know how it can be in the heat of the moment, when a reporter thinks he has a scoop and acts quickly. Mistakes can be made, and they can be corrected.

So I immediately tweeted him to get him to make sure he was aware of his error.

Eight minutes later, worried about how quickly things can be seen and spread on Twitter, especially a tweet from an editor at a supposedly reputable publication, I tweeted Jacobs again:

[Note: Sorry that the time stamps don’t sync up with the Jacobs tweet, because I neglected to capture my own tweets at that time. Below is a screen shot of his Replies page that shows his tweet had already been retweeted by the time I contacted him. (Click the image to enlarge it.)]

About 10 to 15 minutes later, I checked to see if Jacobs had done anything to rectify the situation. I clicked on the original tweet:!/HotlineJeremy/status/23827729388408832. What? It said: “Sorry, that page does not exist.” Looked like Jeremy went and deleted the evidence.

So I checked his Twitter profile page to see what he had tweeted to announce his deletion. Below is what I found. The tweet to @HonCraigJohnson had been the last tweet before his Jeff Kelly tweet.

Now, nearly 8 hours beyond the deletion, Jacobs has still issued no correction for his vile implication, nor has he apologized to Kelly for it either.

It’s not as if Jacobs doesn’t know how to issue a tweet correction. Barely 20 tweets after his deleted one, he made one:

Jesse Kelly, on the other hand, promptly updated his website with a new front page, putting all politics aside and dedicating it to prayers for Giffords and her family. He concludes: “Senseless acts of violence such as this have absolutely no place in American politics.”

UPDATE: Even the National Journal had an article about how so many in the media attempted to politicize the shooting, right away, into something the right-wing caused. But they didn’t bother to include themselves.

Perhaps National Journal could take some advice in setting an ethical policy with regards to their tweets. Craig Silverman at the Columbia Journalism Review did a piece on how to handle a misreported fact, such as Giffords had died when she hadn’t, in his “To Delete or Not to Delete?” Most news organizations felt deleting tweets, even ones that have disseminated egregiously wrong information should not just be swept under the rug. (And they aren’t talking off-the-cuff tweets that libel someone, as in the Hotline tweet.) CJR comes down on the side of issuing a corrective tweet, and then contacting all the retweeters of the original tweet to let them know of the correction and asking for an RT of the new info.

7 comments to Hotline Editor Covers Up Smear on Giffords Rival

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