There was a time when I did believe it and published a story saying so. The story went viral on the ‘Net but no other news source could verify it. I published the story based on emails from political operatives who had passed on information in the past.
But I later found out they lied about being in a meeting where Bush supposedly uttered the phrase and the three “operatives” were actually one person using three different email accounts and names.
I jumped on the story because I wanted to believe it was true. I disliked Bush’s policies so much that it made sense to me that he just might make such a statement.
But I don’t think he did. While I believe Bush was a flawed President, I believe he loves this country. It’s just that his beliefs in what America should be are different from many other Americans but lets remember that the man served two terms. His first election will always have an asterisk beside it because of Florida but the second election was a clearer victory in both popular and electoral votes.
The Bush constitution story was a turning point for this web site. It showcased just how out of control my ego had become as Capitol Hill Blue’s publisher and how sloppy I had allowed the reporting to become and how I had let my distrust of all politicians fuel that sloppiness.
As a recovering alcoholic, one of the 12 steps I must take as part of recovery is making amends to those I have wronged.
I was wrong to write the story that said the President of the United States had called the Constitution a “god damned piece of paper.” I was wrong to write another story that said he was taking anti-depressants. The source for that story turned out to be a bitter, fired aide who himself was undergoing psychiatric treatment.
Although I will celebrate my 17th year of sobriety on June 6 of this year it does not mean I was still not suffering from the problems of alcoholism. Those of us who have stopped actual drinking can still be “dry drunks” and I have been one off and on for the past 16 years. A recent battle with Valium given to me after back surgery became enough of a problem to remind me that my battle with addiction can take many forms.
This does not mean that I, in any way, blame writing those stories or some of the other mistakes made running this web site on my alcoholism. It was my ego that got in the way. In its early years, Capitol Hill Blue built up a strong reputation for independent news coverage — strong enough for for several media outlets, including The New York Times, to write about us.
But then I let my ego get out of hand and started getting sloppy. I got burned by a phony source who claimed to be a CIA consultant. We also too often quoted a source calling himself George Harleigh, who claimed for be a former political science professor and to have served in both the Nixon and Reagan White Houses. I never met the man but received emails that always had quotes that fit my view of the word at the time so I used them.
Then the university where he claimed to work contacted us and said they never heard of him. A blogger claimed he “outed” us but we actually wrote about discovering the scam first but that didn’t matter. We were burned again and our credibility suffered.
I wrote about some of this in a column at the first of the year. I recently provided information to Brooks Jackson at FactCheck.Org to update what they have published about some of our stories.
The point here is that I allowed this web site to publish information that was not properly sourced. I wrote some of the stories. Others I edited. Others I just let others write and post without checking.
That stopped after we got burned the last time. Three has not been a question raised about the veracity of a story published on this web site since 2007 and I intend to keep it that way.
Starting this week, we add a home page feature called “Fact Checking Capitol Hill Blue.” In that section, readers can post questions about our stories and our sources and I will answer each and every question.
Some have suggested I should have shut this web site down after the George Harleigh debacle. I thought about it but decided that there’s still a lot of news out there that needs to be covered.
So we soldier on as the oldest continually published political news web site on the ‘Net and one of the few that is non-partisan.
One other thing. That step about making amends means I must apologize to those I have wronged. I have written letters to three people who I feel were the subjects of inaccurate reporting on this web site and either removed or modified the stories that contained the information:
- Former President George W. Bush
- Former President Bill Clinton (for a story about an claimed sexual assault against an English woman while he was attending Oxford)
- Former First Lady Nancy Reagan (for a story claiming she was not endorsing George W. Bush for President. The story was wrong and retracted).
- Former Vice President Dick Cheney (for a story claiming the Secret Service reported he was drunk when he wounded an associate in an accidental shooting at a ranch in Texas).
And I apologize to them here publicly.
(Updated at 1:15 p.m. on 3/2/11 to include new information)
- Judge us now to see if we have learned from the past (capitolhillblue.com)