Truthout runs out of truth

Truthout executive director Marc Ash called the site’s story on a so-called indictment of Bush guru Karl Rove "the biggest story we have ever covered." William Rivers Pitt called those who questioned the report "cretins" and publicly scolded the founder of Democratic Underground, saying: "When this story pans out, and all the little fish try to swim home, I am going to say ‘Sorry, you had the chance to stand with an ally, and instead, decided to say ‘I find it very hard not to be skeptical.”"

Well the story didn’t pan out and the little fish at Truthout are drowning in their own arrogance.

The announcement Tuesday that Patrick Fitzgerald had informed Rove’s attorneys that Rove had not only not been indicted but that he would not be indicted ignited a blogger feeding frenzy on Truthout and once-again-discredited repoter Jason Leopold.

Leopold did himself or his cause no favors Tuesday with a rambling attempt to defend himself on the syndicated Ed Schultz radio show:

ES: I guess could, in common vernacular street terms we could say this is professionally your Dan Rather moment. How could you get it so wrong? What happened?

JL: Well, let me say this, Ed. And . . . you know . . . I know that there’s a couple of things. And I’m having to juggle many different things right now. One is obviously the incredible personal attacks. So I need to get away from that and focus on what the issue is. The issue right now is that Karl Rove’s attorney, Robert Lufkin, made a statement. Apparently, he claims that there’s a letter that Patrick Fitzgerald had sent to him. I’m also seeing reports that there’s a phone call. And there . . . he needs to release that letter. And until we . . . I hear from Patrick Fitzgerald, until Patrick Fitzgerald actually makes a statement and says, in fact, that this is exactly what’s going on I’m not going to budge from my position in terms of what was reported. That . . . you know . . . people are probably getting infuriated just by me saying that.

ES: You’re standing by your story that Fitzgerald’s going to indict Karl Rove. Am I hearing that correctly?

JL: I’m actually . . . this is . . . how can I answer this? This is . . . it’s a bit confusing. I’m standing by that what we were told we believe to be accurate. Something change . . .

ES: Are you going to name your sources if the official word comes . . .

JL: No. In a word, no.

ES: And that’s where people are going to question your credibility.

JL: Sure. This is a team effort, and I am not the only one working . . . this is an effort by TruthOut . . .

Over at TruthOut, Ash steadfastly refuses to back down, saying:

We are stunned by the magnitude of the reaction to the article we published yesterday morning. We have put our cards on the table. We invite Mr. Luskin to do the same.

To clarify: The entire basis for the information that "Rove has been cleared" comes from a verbal statement by Karl Rove’s attorney. No one else confirms that. As Karl Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin is bound to act – in all regards – in Rove’s best interest. We question his motives.

But Truthout’s regulars aren’t buyng the latest spin. The site’s blog is awash is skepticism from those who once staunchly defended the web site and the story:

I am a long time TO reader and I cannot believe this is all TO has to say. What a joke.

It is a sad day for internet journalism.

TO should out their sources and provide a detailed explanation of how this story was fed to them.

Cough it up! You owe us!

Or this:

This is all the response you have. OUTRAGES !!!!

We, your devoted readers trusted in you, believed you, put our own reputations on the line defending you. Some of us even had to pay 150 dollar bets to right wing neo-con nut jobs based on your reporting and you respond by saying;

"We put our cards on the table"!

In this liberal’s opinion you have lost all credibility in the web news world. Perhaps you should switch to selling Amway on EBay.
–Liberal Barry

Some are more forgiving but the tide has clearly turned not only on Truthout but also on Democratic Underground where the anger resembles that of someone who has been jilted by a lover:

It’s obvious now – the story was wrong, the sources phony or deliberately misleading, the "updates" nothing but cruel hoaxes.

Many of us knew – many more wanted so badly to believe that they suspended their abilities to think critically and bought into what they wanted to happen rather than what really was.

We’ll find many TruthOut "supporters" gone today, their clandestine work of painting DU as a haven for conspiracy addicts done. But we will also find many heartbroken, for they truly believed, up until today, that somehow somewhere it would turn out to be right, and that the graceful beauty of the swan would win out. How sad, then, that all we hear now is the quacking.

Some, however, hold on to the hope that the claim by Rove’s attorneys is just PR flak and note that Fitzgerald has not issued an public announcement but Fitzgerald has not, as a general rule, issued statements on who is is "not" prosecuting. It is, at best, a longshot hope based more on hope than reality.

Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left isn’t buying that spin either:

Fitzgerald’s refusal to comment on Luskin’s statements today that Rove will not be charged leads me to believe Luskin is telling the truth. I believe Fitzgerald would correct the record if it were not true.

As to secret deals or "gentlemen’s agreements" between Karl Rove and Fitzgerald, I don’t see it. If there was any kind of deal to dismiss an Indictment, and Rove was going to be a cooperating witness against him, Libby’s lawyers would have to be told and Luskin would be a fool for publicly asserting otherwise.

Merritt adds:

Truthout should consider just retracting Jason’s article based on Luskin’s statement which has not been contradicted by Fitzgerald, and say they are retracting it because current information

Over at Daily Kos, the honcho chimed with some wise thoughts:

Aside from that, I hope this serves a lesson to all of you who link to crap internet sources like Jason Leopold merely because they write what you want to hear. In fact, the Armando fiasco stemmed from one asshole angry that Armando trashed his diary using Wayne Madsen as a source.

This is the reality based community, not the "make up your own reality" community. Conservatives already own the trademark to that name.

Be properly skeptical of everything you read. Even on this site. And if I use blind sources, which I’m apt to do every once in a while, be particularly skeptical. I won’t be offended.

Conservative blogs, of course, are having a field day at Truthout’s expense. Writes Torie Bosch on Slate:

Roving free: Political mastermind Karl Rove’s lawyer has announced that his client will not be indicted in the CIA leak scandal. Liberal bloggers have long been hoping that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald would charge Rove in connection with the leak of agent Valerie Plame’s identity. Today, conservative bloggers are saying, "I told you so."

"So one of the silliest news stories of modern times is stumbling toward a conclusion with the trial of former Cheney aide Scooter Libby," writes Power Line‘s John Hinderaker, a prominent righty blogger. Fellow conservative TigerHawk thinks that this bodes well for the approval-challenged Bush. "Adding this to the victory in California and the huge roll-up of al Qaeda in Iraq, you have to say it has been a good stretch for the White House politically," he crows.

Getting a story wrong is a newman’s worst nightmare. When you go get it wrong — and we all do if we work in this business long enough — you stand up and take your lumps. Truthout needs to step down off its arrogant pedestal, admit it got it wrong, and move on. Until it does, the road back to credibility will only get longer and more difficult.

UPDATE (May 14): Truthout Executive Editor Marc Ash is showing the first signs of backing off the Rove indictment story:

Truthout of course published an article on May 13 which reported that Karl Rove had in fact already been indicted. Obviously there is a major contradiction between our version of the story and what was reported yesterday. As such, we are going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time. We defer instead to the nation’s leading publications.

Ash did say the site continues to stand behind reporter Leopold, even with his checkered past, and promises a more complete report on Monday, June 19. He also said Truthout will not reveal its sources from the apparently discredited story.