it’s all in the mix

Where’s Wilford Brimley* when you need him?
So ABC runs a story that says Dennis Hastert is “in the mix” in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress.
Do they provide context of what being “in the mix” might mean, as opposed to, hypothetically, being “under investigation”?
They do not.
But now, after a rather flat denial from the Justice department (“Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”), ABC is standing by its story — sort of:
Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement sources tonight said ABC News accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is “in the mix” in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress….ABC’s law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal “target” or “subject” of the investigation.
One of ABC’s rather helpful sources goes even further, complimenting ABC for their careful wording:
“You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully,” a senior official said.
Well, they say if you can make one person happy, then you’ve accomplished something.
So here’s a few questions for our intrepid colleagues at ABC:
1) Why didn’t ABC provide any explanation or context in the original story for the rather bizarre phrasing “in the mix” ? Did they ask their source if Hastert was an actual target or subject of an investigation? If yes, what did the source say? If no, why the heck not?
2) At least two (ABC specifes sources, plural) officials are leaking** like a sieve on this story. Why? In ABC’s opinion, what is their motivation? Disclosing details of an investigation in progress is a bit of a big deal, last I checked. So why are these sources doing it? And why wasn’t some explanation of ABC’s perspective on their motivations included in the story?
3) It would be nice if ABC could help me understand the following:
Law enforcement sources told ABC News that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has provided information to the FBI about Hastert and a number of other members of Congress that have broadened the scope of the investigation. Sources would not divulge details of the Abramoff’s information.
“You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully,” a senior official said.
One focus involves a letter Hastert wrote in 2003 urging the Secretary of the Interior to block an Indian casino that would have competed with tribes represented by Abramoff.

Emphasis mine. So help me out here: your sources “would not divulge details”, but two paragraphs later, you’re specifying the exact area of focus that is zeroing in on Hastert. Sounds pretty detailed to me. So while we’re doing details, what about this question: “a number of other members” could mean one. It could mean 434. Which is it? Or at least, which one is it closer to? What did your source say when you asked them? And why isn’t that answer worth publishing? (It’s the Internet: the bits are cheap).
In conclusion: yes, I know you want to play Woodward in the garage with your source(s), keeping them all mysterious and such (it’s fun!), and sparing the ignorant masses the details of the messy sausage-making that goes into producing a news story. But with a piece like this, the way you got the information is just as important as the information itself — sometimes more. A good blogger would never have run this story without some context on how and, in their judgment, why they got the information — and a good professional journalist shouldn’t have either.
Update: Oh, it gets better and better! Hugh Hewitt points out something I missed: that it would appear that ABC News has changed the text of the story currently on their web site since its original publication!
So here’s the first paragraphs as they appear right now (8:41pm PDT):
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

But Hugh indicates that “Hastert’s office” provided a different version. Which reminded me that I received the story, in email, from a Republican Senator’s office at 3:49pm. Here’s the first paragraphs of that version:
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level government sources.
Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.”

Pretty important difference! So I’ll add #4 to my list of questions: is it the policy of ABC news to make substantive changes to high-profile news stories without acknowledging them as corrections?
Update Again: I went looking for a cached version of the original ABC News story, with no luck. But I got the next best thing, just in case anyone’s feeling conspiracy minded and doesn’t believe that ABC actually ran with the stronger-worded version.
Check out this screen capture of Memeorandum from just a few moments ago:



(click image for full size)
It does indeed match the version I received, and does indeed contain the strong phrasing “is under investigtaion by the FBI”.
Update 5/25 am: The Speaker’s office is getting serious. Just received this notice sent from Hastert’s lawyers to ABC (again from a Senate staff source, but I’ll bet it will be coming from official GOP channels any minute) :
Dear Mr. Westin, Mr. Stephanopoulos, and Mr. Ross:
At 7:25 p.m., the Statement of the Department of Justice confirmed:
“Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”
At 10:21 p.m. you wrote:
“Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation,” one federal official said tonight.”
This statement is false, and your republication of it after actual knowledge of its falsity constitutes libel and defamation. ABC News’ continued publication of this false information, after having actual knowledge of its falsity, evidences a specific and malicious intent to injure and damage Speaker Hastert’s reputation by continued repetition of a known falsehood.
We will take any and all actions necessary to rectify the harm ABC has caused and to hold those at ABC responsible for their conduct.
Please advise regarding who will accept service of process to remedy this intentional falsehood.
Very truly yours,
J. Randolph Evans
Stefan C. Passantino
Counsel to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert


They appear well and mighty pissed. PDF of the letter is here.

For more blogosphere reactions, check these TTLB topic pages:
Dennis HastertWilliam Jefferson

* “Now we’ll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there’s gonna be two things true that ain’t true now. One is that the United States Department of Justice is goin’ to know what in the good Christ – e’scuse me, Angie – is goin’ on around here. And the other’s I’m gonna have somebody’s backside in my briefcase. ”
** “You had a leak? You call what’s goin’ on around here a leak? Boy, the last time there was a leak like this, Noah built hisself a boat.”

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29 replies on “it’s all in the mix”

  1. Hastert Under Investigation?

    ABC News’ blog, “The Blotter”, has a story up that, if true, could explain why the Speaker of the House is so gung ho about keeping the FBI out of Congressional offices:
    The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigatio

  2. Obviously, this “leak” was a flat out piece of propafiction from a Democratic operative who knew ABC would plaster the airwaves with it as truth, and any retraction is worthless, because the masses are basically stupid sheep.
    Of course, Hastert and the GOP have only themselves to blame for even non-moonbats believing the worst, considering their kneejerk defense of the “right” to avoid FBI investigation, etc.
    I say throw ’em all in jail, and while they’re there, search all their various properties. Cavity search as well. Put them on the probulator. I think becoming a member of Congress should deprive you of any opacity.

  3. Republicans Are Funny

    Let me tell you about human nature. If we’re not interested in something, we might think everyone else’s interest in it is funny.
    That’s the way I feel about the Dennis Hastert/William Jefferson blog swarm. Here’s the short v…

  4. Tricky stuff that. But even the consumers of Pravda were able to get some whiff of the true state of affairs therefrom. But Hastert is, at best, an idiot. Was his insipid, overboard and overbroad defense of Jefferson really a reactionary gasp at the precious privileges of the House being compromised? Well, that is certainly bad enough and is the most charitable explanation. Less charitable is the presumption that Hastert doesn’t want TOO much light shed on the Capitol lest it reveal somethings he would like kept under wraps. He must long to return to the locker room with moves like this.

  5. Gee, I wish that ABC could report as to why 5 Democrat senators blocked the unredacted release of the Barret investigation. I wish any news org. to find the truth.

  6. >>Which reminded me that I received the story, in email, from a Republican Senator’s office at 3:49pm.
    I’m not sure I understand what this means. Why would a republican senator email to you an article about a republican representative being investigated? Was it just an “FYI” email or did the senator have any comments to go along with it?

  7. I can vouch that the text at the ABC “The Blotter” was changed. I cut/pasted the first two paragraphs of the story over at strata-sphere yesterday. Then I saw the “they are not reading very carefully” comment. I thought “what is there to read carefully, the article clearly states that the Speaker is under investigation but I went and looked anyway. That’s when I noticed the text of the article had changed. So what ABC does is modify the contents of the article without telling anyone and then says “we stand behind the article” except they aren’t. They are standing behind a DIFFERENT article.
    Overall what they managed to do was put out something blatently false that served to change the subject from “corrupt Democratic Congressman caught taking $100,000 has his office searched” to “Speaker might or might not be under investigation”. Brilliant.

  8. Michael: To follow my own spirit o’ disclosure rules: it was just a FYI email, with no additional comments (from staff, not the Senator himself). My interpretation was really just an FYI that they thought I (and other bloggers; it came through bcc, so presumably went to others) would be interested in.

  9. Hastert’s attorney has written a letter to ABC demanding it be corrected. So far it looks like ABC is doing a Dan Rather even thought the DOJ has stated there is no investigation of Hastert.
    Amazing.
    Can anyone imagine this happening to Ted Kennedy?

  10. Funny, it seems the FBI has run to the media with this news. Sort’a like the way they did during Watergate. Where a president got flipped out of office.
    Now? Maybe, the FBI is over-reaching?
    The Capitol does have its own police for a reason.
    And, all blacks really have is an ability to stay together. And, in DC that affects the jury pool.
    Personally, for instance, I think Valerie Plame’s blondness is work against Fitzgerald. Just as Nicole’s did, against OJ. And, Martha Stewart’s did, against her jurors in NYC.
    Not so sure it’s illegal to put money in your freezer. Or the sting set up by the FBI would even pass muster with a judge and be admitted into evidence. Then all ya go is this ugly laundry being hung out there. TRIED IN THE MEDIA.
    With time on our hands. Let’s see if people stay hot-under-the-collar? Hastert’s definitely defining TURF. The FBI, if it has over-reached, won’t find Hastert silent in the future. Since he’s got enough exposure, now, as the Majority Chair; and he’s a lot saner than Newt Gingrich … HE MAY HAVE A LOT OF SUPPORT WITHIN HIS CHAMBER?
    The FBI might be the organization out on a limb?
    Easy to shoot black politicians? Didn’t Nagin just get re-elected? The donks don’t have a downside in all of this?
    I used to think Ron Brown died in an airplane accident. No foul. Not so sure, anymore. And, money going into politicians’ pockets is not new. It costs money to run. Just as it costs money to open the doors to churches. Collection plates never have the money going to Jesus, ya know?

  11. “Absence of Malice” is one of my favorites.
    Another directly applicable quote would be:
    “We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons. It ain’t legal. And worse than that, by God it ain’t right. ”

  12. “Absence of Malice” is one of my favorites.
    Another directly applicable quote would be:
    “We can’t have people go around leaking stuff for their own reasons. It ain’t legal. And worse than that, by God it ain’t right. ”

  13. Perhaps ABC is using a different set of quotes from “Absence of Malice.”
    “Is it true?”
    “No. But’s it accurate.”

  14. Is ABC “in the mix” of the Natalie Holloway investigation? How about the Chandra Levy case? Loeb and Leopold? The secret formula for Coke?
    Noise from a megaphone is just amplified noise.

  15. Is ABC “in the mix” of the Natalie Holloway investigation? How about the Chandra Levy case? Loeb and Leopold? The secret formula for Coke?
    Noise from a megaphone is just amplified noise.

  16. Would this ABC reporter (yuk) be the same person who was blowing up GM trucks over a decade ago on another network?

  17. ABC has no credibilty when it comes to reporting the news – it only has one agenda: Bring down the Bush Administration. The hiring of Charlie Gibson, the Rathergate conspiracy, Kerry’s military adventures, not to mention their reporting on the failing US economy and the failure of the Iraqi war. Watching ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN newscasts should be titled the Moonbat Networks.

  18. ABC has no credibilty when it comes to reporting the news – it only has one agenda: Bring down the Bush Administration. The hiring of Charlie Gibson, the Rathergate conspiracy, Kerry’s military adventures, not to mention their reporting on the failing US economy and the failure of the Iraqi war. Watching ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN newscasts should be titled the Moonbat Networks.

  19. Laura Ingraham has source INSIDE ABC.
    ABC’s Brian Ross: another Dan Rather?
    (Starting at 1:34 of the audio)
    Laura: I got an email from a friend of mine, who works at ABC and I won’t say who this person is. But she is very uh you know she is a very significant role at ABC. (Laura begins to read the email) Laura, You ought to come down on ABC’s Brian Ross this morning. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard his report about Hastert being under investigation by the Justice Department for being “in the Mix” of the Abramoff scandal. (Laura comments) I don’t want to give give this other part away but (back to email) a friend as now told me that last night reporters in the press gallery were laughing out loud as the story aired on ABC last night. They all know that this report by Brian Ross was totally bogus. Most of the reporters and the producer who have been actually covering this story, who are really connected to this story knew of this so called explosive letter months ago and knew that there was nothing to it. ABC, I noticed is slowly weaseling out of this story. Which with each subsequent update but still refuses to retract it. Maybe this will be Brian Ross’ Dan Rather moment.
    http://lauraingraham.com/pg/jsp/charts/streamingAudioMaster.jsp;jsessionid=5054F67BD640EFD3FBE51554DF20C98B?dispid=302&headerDest=/site/preview?pid=2561

  20. This story is the sort of garbage that’s excreted daily by our media, and it’s really no surprise. Same old song… And we can whine and moan about it all day long, but ABC has the first amendment right to report almost anything it wants based on any flimsy information it may get. Of course, so does Time, NewsWeek, the National Enquirer, the Weekly World News, …
    Tired of this crap? Do what I do and don’t purchase ** any ** of the MSM’s news “product”! What does this mean? Don’t buy the crap newpapers like USA Today, NYT, WaPo, cancel or reduce your cable subscription, write to sponsors and advertisers and tell them why you’re not reading paper X anymore or watching cable show Y. Refuse newspapers at hotels and demand that the hotel chains stop hiding the cost of the newpapers in your room bill. Tell the airports that you find the 24/7 CNN televisions intrusive and annoying. Can I watch Star Trek instead? I could go on, but you get the idea…

  21. Brian Ross is the same “Journalist” from the 1993 Dateline hatchet job of General Motors that viewers were never told about it. It appeared to be a major discovery of investigative reporters. GM investigators discovered a “mistake” by a study of the Dateline film. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation lawsuit against NBC. The lawsuit in question was quickly settled by NBC and as a result Brian Ross and a few persons responsible for the incident were fired from NBC, and Ross found employment with ABC News, where he continues to work to this day. This is the same Brian Ross who later the same year of 1993 went after a Greensboro Eye Clinic with an entrapment piece! Although the case was dropped it does show a pattern of great Journalistic Fiction pawned off as Pulitzer caliber Journalism which the Fourth Estate Loves!
    Prior to this outrage against Speaker Hastert, Ross claimed that he and other “Journalist” had been wiretapped! It is all outlined at:
    http://powdertracks.blogspot.com/2006/05/brian-rosss-and-his-games.html
    This guy, Brian Ross is a pathetic Liar at Large and would be a great speech writer for the Persian President Acme-Ninja-Jab!

  22. Brian Ross is the same “Journalist” from the 1993 Dateline hatchet job of General Motors that viewers were never told about it. It appeared to be a major discovery of investigative reporters. GM investigators discovered a “mistake” by a study of the Dateline film. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation lawsuit against NBC. The lawsuit in question was quickly settled by NBC and as a result Brian Ross and a few persons responsible for the incident were fired from NBC, and Ross found employment with ABC News, where he continues to work to this day. This is the same Brian Ross who later the same year of 1993 went after a Greensboro Eye Clinic with an entrapment piece! Although the case was dropped it does show a pattern of great Journalistic Fiction pawned off as Pulitzer caliber Journalism which the Fourth Estate Loves!
    Prior to this outrage against Speaker Hastert, Ross claimed that he and other “Journalist” had been wiretapped! It is all outlined at:
    http://powdertracks.blogspot.com/2006/05/brian-rosss-and-his-games.html
    This guy, Brian Ross is a pathetic Liar at Large and would be a great speech writer for the Persian President Acme-Ninja-Jab!

  23. And who controls the political reporting at ABC?
    It would be that senior journalist George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton White House staffer.
    There’s no question about where his loyalties lie. Is there?

  24. What would you expect from the MSN’s drive-by-media. They manufacture stories regardless of the truth. I thought reporters where suppose to report the news not manufacture the news. If one thing is clear today, we have a very biased media who are invested in the defeat of this nation in the war on terrorism, and are truely the enemy from within. They would sell-out this country for their own benefit/rankings and personal advancement. Is there no wonder the MSN’s are fading and losing audiences.

  25. Let’s see–we find out that the DEMOCRATIC rep from, er, New Orleans, got caught red handed this week with serious violations and ethical lapses….ooops that’ll put a dent in the ‘Evil Republican Ethics of Corruption’ meme for this fall, not to mention how evil and horrible they did dealing with New Orleans. hmmm, I know! Let’s fabricate an ethical lapse from, er, the House Speaker so no one will notice the real infraction! Our Drive By Media will run it for us and we can press forward with the deceit of the American people(they’re so stupid!) so we can get power back again because we are soooo deserving……
    Liberals make me want to puke….

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