September 3, 2004


UPDATE: Here’s a firsthand report from a blogger who was there. No boos:

As I said, there was no boo’ing when President Bush made the announcement about Clinton’s hospitalization and made wishes for a speedy recovery. The crowd was very gracious.

The only boo’ing to be heard was when Bush reviewed Senator Kerry’s voting record in the Senate.

Do I trust this blogger I’ve never met more than the Associated Press? Yes, yes I do. And she’s got the audio.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More from a reader:

Prof. Reynolds:

We live in Lake County, Illinois, a few miles from the Wisconsin border. Two of our neighbors drove up to the event today at which AP said the booing occurred. One is a retired Army officer and the other is his adult daughter. They are good friends of ours and very trustworthy. They were outraged when they read the AP story, because they say the crowd did not boo when President Bush asked for their prayers and support for Bill Clinton. On the contrary, they applauded President Bush’s well-wishing for Clinton, and many bowed their heads in prayer. From their account, there was no way to mistake their cheers for boos.

This AP story is one of the most blatant examples of press bias I have seen in a campaign season that has featured the most partisan media coverage in memory.


Evan McKenzie
Political Science Department
University of Illinois at Chicago

This seems quite outrageous. I wonder if it’s one of those “dirty tricks” that Susan Estrich was threatening?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Apparently, this story is not by Scott Lindlaw, as earlier reported, but by Tom Hays. Jonathan Last has more on this, and observes:

So the AP: (1) Puts out a story with falsified reporting; (2) Pulls the story; (3) Removes the faulty reporting; (4) Makes no note of its mistake; and then (5) Pulls the byline of the reporter who made the error. If you were going to impute bad faith to the folks at AP–and at this point that’s not unreasonable to do–you might suspect that they have pulled Tom Hays’s byline to protect him.

Behold the power of Lexis-Nexis. The AP was able to cover their tracks on the web, but Lexis-Nexis keeps all versions of stories which carry different time-stamps. The Hays original is preserved there in its entirety.

He’s got it. He also observes: “This is a fine time for Romenesko to be on vacation. Let’s hope he digs into this story on Tuesday. Paging Howie Kurtz . . . ”

MORE: Still more here.

STILL MORE: Video here. Article from Editor and Publisher here. Amusing comment from CQ, linked above:

This has been the AP style for as long as I’ve been aware of them.

Start of the newsday: BUSH EATS GROUND FOETUSES.
and by the end of the newsday: PRESIDENT HAD SCRAMBLED EGGS FOR BREAKFAST.


MORE STILL: Jonathan Last has a followup:

First of all, good for the AP for fixing the faulty reporting and including what seems to be an accurate description of the Republican crowd’s reaction to bad news about President Clinton’s health.

But the AP’s conduct with regards to the rest of this story is not reassuring. We have an un-bylined bit of faulty reporting which was incorporated into the bylined work of another reporter without accreditation. After being confronted by the blogosphere, the AP pulled versions of the bad reporting from the web and the first instance of it from Lexis-Nexis. After it was revealed here at Galley Slaves that the bad reporting lived on in other versions of the story in Nexis, the AP went into Nexis and disappeared it from there, too. Then, they inserted a cleaned-up version with no time-stamp whatsoever. By the time media reporters like Jim Romenesko and Howard Kurtz and Jack Shafer get back to the office on Tuesday, there will be no story, because the AP will have completely altered all of the evidence.

In fact, as it stands right now, the only evidence that the AP ever made this enormous error is on blogs, such as this one, which copied the offending stories–remember, Lexis-Nexis does not page-cache the way Google does.

The AP’s conduct reminds me of the famous Soviet picture of the Bolshevik leaders sitting on the couch. It began with the entire high command, and over the years, as individuals fell out of favor and were disappeared, was airbrushed over and over until, in the end, it showed only Lenin and Stalin, who were mysteriously seated on opposite ends of an enormous sofa.

Correcting errors is good. And “stealth corrections” can be OK. But the AP has published a damaging falsehood, which was spread widely — reaching the BBC and numerous other sources — and has now destroyed the evidence. That seems wrong to me.

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