The right-wing version of reporting

The right continues to chase a novel conspiracy theory about a Schiavo talking points memo for Republicans.

Published April 6, 2005 3:36PM (EDT)

Not willing to leave the scene of the political car wreck, conservatives continue to loiter around the Terri Schiavo fiasco. Specifically, the right-wing Washington Times this morning went big with an investigation into the controversial talking point memo reportedly distributed to Republicans on March 17 as they hastily debated passing emergency legislation on behalf of Schiavo's parents. As first reported by ABC News, and then later picked up by the Washington Post, the memo, which made crass -- and ill-advised -- assertions that the Schiavo story was a winner for Republicans, gave Democrats ammunition in their insistence that the right-to-die case was more about politics than morality.

But when questions were raised about the memo (i.e. it wasn't printed on letterhead, there were spellings errors, etc.) conservatives caught on the wrong side of the Schiavo polls began advancing the novel and unsupported conspiracy theory that the noxious memo was never a Republican one. Instead, they claimed, it was the crafty work of an unknown Democratic dirty trickster who made it look like it came from the GOP.

It's been more than two weeks since the memo first surfaced, so how did the Times advance the story today? Did it offer new evidence of the memo's origins? Did it finger the culprit behind the elaborate hoax? Not quite. It simply announced that no Republican member of the senate had seen the memo, and that nobody on staff had produced it.

Imagine that, not one Republican senator wants to publicly take credit for the tasteless memo, and none of them want to concede it was distributed to them during the Schiavo debate. And who says Washington Times reporters can't do a little gumshoeing?

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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