Commentary Magazine


The Washington Post ‘Clarifies’

You recall the Washington Post’s low moment of the campaign: simultaneous stories on page one, one of which dredged up Cindy McCain’s past drug use and one which claimed that Sarah Palin’s comments to U.S. troops (including her son) departing for Iraq evidenced a deep-seated belief on her part that Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11.

I and others spotted the Post in a late-night effort to clean up the latter story by dropping in a sentence that Al Qaeda  is, of course, now in Iraq, but leaving the thesis the same: that silly Palin woman thinks Saddam was behind 9-11.

I subsequently emailed the Post’s Ombudswoman asking if the paper stood by the original story and asking why they made a late-night edit. I received no reply. However, today there is  a “clarification” in the Post:

A Sept. 12 Page One article quoted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin as telling a brigade of Iraq-bound soldiers that they would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” The report linked Palin’s comments with the idea thatSaddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Palin was referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a terror group that formed after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and claims to be allied with the global al-Qaeda organization.

This seems to be the height of intellectual dishonesty. Without addressing its own unsupported allegation or even mentioning its own late-night edit escapade, Post editors try to “clarify” with a “Well the McCain  camp says . .” Please.

This certainly lacks the minimal requirements of candor the Post would demand of a poltician, certainly Palin herself.  This is the issue: was the original story correct, namely does the Post have any factual support for the original contention that Palin was referring to Saddam and not Al Qaeda? If not, the Post should say so and issue a retraction, not a weasely “clarification.” And while its editors are at it, they might explain what they were doing at 1:00 a.m. trying to patch up a badly flawed story.