Another bedroom farce, Part 2

Possibly the biggest political myth of the year just keeps on growing.

By Brendan Nyhan

Published March 12, 2002 8:49PM (EST)

In a previous article, we helped expose the myth that Ken Lay stayed overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom of the Clinton White House, which has been repeated in a long list of publications and TV shows since January. But this one appears to be dying a slow death.

John McCaslin repeats a version of the claim Tuesday in his Inside the Beltway column for the Washington Times, claiming vaguely that "Enron's chairman did meet with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office." Which president is he referring to? He doesn't say, exactly, instead stating that "[t]he Enron chairman stayed at the White House 11 times." Lay never spent the night at the Clinton White House (he did stay there during the George H.W. Bush presidency), but McCaslin suggests otherwise later, calling Clinton "Enron's host."

His own newspaper made almost the exact same mistake just a few weeks ago, yet even after retracting the claim about Lay's Clinton sleepover it still published McCaslin's piece. Contacted through e-mail, McCaslin admitted the error, saying that the offending sentence has been removed from the online version of the column and that a correction will run Wednesday.

Meanwhile, after a reader tipped us off that the New York Times also disseminated the claim in a Feb. 1 story, I contacted Times reporter Alison Mitchell on March 4, who said on March 7 that she had submitted a correction to her editors. However, the Times has yet to run a correction, even though it notes errors as small as spelling mistakes every day.

The Washington Times is hopefully going to come clean (again). When will the New York Times?

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Brendan Nyhan

Brendan Nyhan is a political scientist currently serving as a RWJ Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan.

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