From Truthout, an apology, of sorts, for reporting Rove's indictment

An editor says he's sorry for getting "too far out in front of the the news cycle" -- then stands by the story anyway.

Published May 20, 2006 2:38PM (EDT)

A week after proclaiming that Karl Rove has already been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to federal investigators, Truthout has issued a rather inscrutable partial apology.

"The time has now come. . . to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story," Truthout Executive Director Marc Ash said in a post on the site Friday. "While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it. As such, we will be taking the wait-and-see approach for the time being. We will keep you posted."

An apology for "getting too far out in front of the news cycle"? How's that again? Where we come from, reporters try to get out in front of the news cycle. It's called aggressive reporting, breaking some news, a scoop. And it's not the sort of thing that warrants an apology -- unless, of course, you've gotten the story wrong.

So is Truthout saying that Jason Leopold's reporting was wrong? We put that question to Ash this morning, and his answer seemed to be a pretty unequivocal no. Although Rove's lawyer and his spokesman have both said that Leopold's story was false, Ash said that Truthout still believes that Patrick Fitzgerald, Karl Rove and Rove lawyer Robert Luskin participated in a 15-hour plea-negotiation session at Patton Boggs last Friday; that Fitzgerald gave Rove's lawyers a copy of an indictment charging Rove with perjury and lying to investigators; and that Fitzgerald told Rove's lawyers that their client had 24 hours -- or 24 business hours -- to get his affairs in order.

So why apologize for the story? Leopold's story quoted "sources close to the case" who predicted an indictment announcement last week, and Ash told us this morning that Truthout "hoped and felt strongly" that Fitzgerald would announce Rove's indictment on Friday. That it didn't happen was a cause for concern, Ash said.

In addition, Ash said that he's uncertain about some of the events leading up to and following the meeting that supposedly happened last Friday at Patton Boggs. Ash said he isn't sure now when the grand jury voted to indict Rove, although he said he remains confident that it did so before last Friday. He said that he isn't sure what's going on now to warrant keeping the alleged indictment under wraps, although he suggested that it must mean that Rove's team is cooperating with Fitzgerald somehow.

Finally, Ash said that "there are people whose life was made inconvenient by our story," and that "not all of them are Karl Rove or people beholden to Karl Rove." Who are they? "I can't tell you any more than that," Ash said. Is one of them Leopold? "You're making my life complicated now," Ash said.

Of course, good stories often inconvenience people and complicate lives, and they seldom contain every last fact about the steps that led up to or might follow the developments they report. If that's all that's "wrong" about Leopold's reporting, there's no need for Truthout to apologize for anything.

So, once again, why the "partial apology" now?

Ash said that Truthout needs to "cool down the reactor a little bit" as it tries to learn more about the "cycle" on which Fitzgerald's legal team is working. "We're not in a position to continue on without an official confirmation," he said. "Unless we get some official confirmation, we're going to look stupider and stupider."

Those were his words, not ours.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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