The Edwards "scoop": Strike 2 for the Politico

Days after the site reported that the White House was looking for Gonzales' successor, it said that Edwards was suspending his presidential run.


Tim Grieve
March 22, 2007 10:00PM (UTC)

The Politico made news twice this week with scoops on the stories of the day. That would be a real coup for the upstart political news site -- if only the stories had panned out the way the Politico suggested they would.

Earlier this week, the Politco's Mike Allen reported that Republican officials "operating at the behest of the White House," had already begun looking for a successor for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Allen said that "administration officials" had "floated" a number of different possibilities, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend. After White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "rumors" about a replacement search were "untrue," the Politico published a revised version of its story that put George W. Bush's support for the attorney general at the top. The new version of the story quoted a Republican source as saying that Bush was "unmoved" and wouldn't push Gonzales out, but that Gonzales would take it upon himself to leave if he decided that he has lost his effectiveness. At an appearance in St. Louis today, Gonzales said he's not going to resign.

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This morning, the Politico fronted a piece in which Ben Smith reported that John Edwards would be suspending his presidential campaign in the wake of news that his wife's cancer has returned. The Politico wasn't the only one to report on the decision that wasn't -- as we noted earlier, MSNBC was saying much the same thing in the minutes before the Edwards' press conference. Is it possible that Edwards decided to suspend his campaign and then changed his mind? Yes. And it's certainly also possible that the White House did have GOP officials for a replacement for Gonzales before deciding to get in line behind the attorney general. But for now, Smith says that his source and his story on Edwards were both wrong. "A single, confident source close to John Edwards told me this morning that Edwards was 'suspending his campaign,' and I posted it to the blog at 11:06 this morning," Smith writes in his blog. Smith says he "unwisely wrote" what he wrote initially "without getting a second source," and he is apologizing to the Politico's readers for doing so.

When Jim VandeHei and John Harris left the Washington Post to start what would become the Politico, VandeHei vowed to put together "the best political reporting team in country today and deliver the news the way people want it: fast, fair and first." When the Politico launched in January, Harris told Howard Kurtz that the idea was to create a "reporting-driven site, not a radical departure in creating a new form of journalism." When Kurtz pronounced himself underwhelmeded by the new venture, Harris said that he hoped "people will judge us over time." Maybe they will. But for people who first heard of the Politico this morning, when CNN was passing along its faulty scoop about Edwards -- as well as for political junkies who have been reading all the tea leaves on Gonzales -- the judgment could be a little more swift and a lot more severe than Harris, VandeHei or their colleagues might have hoped.


Tim Grieve

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

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