In my post “Here We Go” about the Washington Post‘s sloppy and transparent hit job on Romney, I wrote this:
Wow, if I was a suspicious man, I would suspect that this Washington Post article (via Drudge) about Romney viciously cutting a gay boy’s hair was timed to coincide with Obama’s flip flop on gay marriage of yesterday…but I’m sure that a reputable paper like the Post wouldn’t coordinate with a campaign to publish a 47 year old story, complete with direct quotes and from people with absolutely no bias – they even said that they weren’t motivated by politics. I’m not that cynical…or am I?
And if it happened, there is nothing in the story to indicate that Romney knew the kid was gay or an animus against homosexuals, the Post said that he “came out” to his family but they neglect to say when…apparently when he was in school with Mitt, the kid was just a weirdo:
The boy few at Cranbrook knew or remember was born in Chicago, grew up in South Bend, Ind., and had a hard time fitting in. He liked to wander and “had a glorious sense of the absurd,” according to his sister Betsy. When the chance to get out of Indiana presented itself, he jumped at it, and enrolled at Cranbrook. He never uttered a word about Mitt Romney or the haircut incident to his sisters. After Cranbrook asked him to leave, he finished high school, attended the University of the Seven Seas for two semesters, then graduated in 1970 from Vanderbilt, where he majored in English.
He came out as gay to his family and close friends and led a vagabond life, taking dressage lessons in England and touring with the Royal Lipizzaner Stallion riders. After an extreme fit of temper in front of his mother and sister at home in South Bend, he checked into the Menninger Clinic psychiatric hospital in Topeka, Kan. Later he received his embalmer’s license, worked as a chef aboard big freighters and fishing trawlers, and cooked for civilian contractors during the war in Bosnia and then, a decade later, in Iraq. His hair thinned as he aged, and in the winter of 2004 he returned to Seattle, the closest thing he had to a base.
Since Lauber is dead, we can’t ask him.
Washington Post’s take: Romney is rich, white, belongs to a cult, wears funny underwear, went to an exclusive school and rumor had it that he once cut a gay kids hair. It’s not like he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years or associated with known terrorists.
Well, I’m not a professional journalist, nor do I have any journalistic training (which is painfully evident to people who read this blog) but the things that I sorted out as issues seemed to me to be common sense ethical problems with the Post article. Well, they are journalistic ethic issues as well. Stacy McCain, a real, live, functioning, full frontal nudity journalist, has this:
Just got off the phone with an experienced Washington news editor who agrees that the “Dead Man’s Quote” trick would be a firing offense in any reputable news organization. Permit me to explain exactly what’s wrong with this trick.
Our standards of journalism, including libel law, have accumulated in common-law fashion in accordance with our Constitution. The First Amendment is not a license for defamation. When journalism becomes a weapon to make accusations against private citizens, the Sixth Amendment’s “Confrontation Clause” must be considered.
That is to say, one cannot use claims of private knowledge by anonymous sources to accuse people of criminal wrongdoing, because the person accused is thereby deprived of the traditional right to face his accusers. It is one thing when anonymous sources are used to describe routine political shenanigans (“sources close to the campaign said”), but another thing entirely when what is being alleged could be construed as potentially libelous. In such a case, if the accused person wants to take you to court, and your anonymous source is not willing to come forward and vouch for the truth of his statements, you are screwed, blued and tattooed.
What Horowitz has done is something even worse: He has claimed to know the exact words spoken by John Lauber — a dead man Horowitz never interviewed — in a private conversation, based entirely on the word of David Seed. The substance of that alleged conversation is crucial to the accusation made by the Washington Post story that Romney’s alleged bullying had a lifelong negative impact on Lauber’s life.
Yet John Lauber is rather conspicuously unavailable for comment on the allegation, unless perhaps the editors of the Washington Post are willing to enlist a psychic to conduct a seance.
Just proves that the Post is devoid of any kind of ethics, journalistic or otherwise.