Glenn Thrush of Politico runs GOP doctored quote verbatim to earn the Media Putz
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on October 1, 2009
Lazy journalism is often defined loosely as “cut-and-paste.” But there is cause for celebration when you find a literal real-life example of cut-and-paste obnoxiously lazy journalism.
Glenn Thrush of Politico wrote about Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) and his comments that he had witnessed some racist comments over the summer.
As part of his job, Thrush was transcribing the 85 words Rep. Perriello said on MSNBC. But in the middle of this “arduous” process, Thrush was interrupted by an e-mail from National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Andy Sere that contained “what appeared to be a full a [sic] transcript of the exchange.”
So a journalist gets an e-mail from a political operative and assumes point blank that the quote is 100% accurate.
“A time saver, I thought, so I cut-and-pasted. What I didn’t immediately realize was that Sere had replaced key words — that provided important context — with elipses [sic].”
Thrush’s logic is convoluted. Thrush is transcribing 85 words, provided of course that he writes down all the words. However, Thrush only used 69 words in the original context, minus the 16 words that Sere took out to make Rep. Perriello sound bad. Sere thinks it’s his job to make Rep. Perriello look bad, but it’s definitely not Thrush’s job.
The time Thrush thought he saved came as the expense of his bias and credibility.
In Thrush’s apology to Rep. Perriello, he runs the full paragraph that Perriello said as it should have run, highlighting the words that Thrush left out.
“I conducted over a hundred hours of town hall meetings in central and southern Virginia [and the vast majority of them were civil; people disagreed passionately on ideological grounds]. And there were [rare] cases where very racist remarks were made. Sometimes they were called out by neighbors in the audience; sometimes they weren’t. Clearly, race remains a factor in America, [but] there’s also a lot of disagreement here that is genuine and not based on race, so I think we have to have both conversations.”
Though, when you go to the original story, there is no indication that the text was wrong or had been corrected. Standard journalism practice calls for explanation when text is substantially changed in a story. In John Cook’s hilarious take on this story on Gawker, “Politico Apologizes For Being Politico,” a note is offered at the end “to reflect the fact that we misspelled the hell out of Tom Perriello’s name.” Yet another lesson for Politico to learn from this story.
Thrush’s explanation is a little hazy. Even on the off-chance that Thrush believed Sere was giving him the whole truth — and that is a stretch — wouldn’t you at least double check the quote by playing back the video? We are literally talking about 85 words. In Thrush’s own words on the words he left out, “it makes a big difference.”
It makes a big difference to the rest of us — before and after the fact, not just after. But it’s typical of the type of Beltway journalism, nod at what you are given, that violates the true calling of journalism.
Glenn Thrush isn’t the first MSM journalist to be accused of cut-and-paste. Maureen Dowd had her own controversy earlier this year, but in Dowd’s defense, her “copying” kept the essence of the quote. Thrush manipulated the quote to make his subject look much worse.
As Thrush notes in his own words:
“…anyone who uses Sere’s altered transcript instead of the unredacted version published here is intentionally misleading the public and should be called out for it.”
And so we are calling you out, Glenn Thrush, as our Media Putz of the week award winner.