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Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell released a new column today. And she plays "victim" from the very first sentence.
"Nothing in my 50-year career prepared me for the thousands of flaming e-mails I got last week over my last column, e-mails so abusive and many so obscene that part of The Post's Web site was shut down."

Was she upset because they told her she was wrong? Or were the emails genuinely abusive. Can we trust Howell's reporting? Let's hear how she tells the rest of the story.....

The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican


Howell's original column scrupulously avoided mentioning that fact, calling Abramoff a "top dog lobbyist." In fact, it contorted itself to avoid that statement. Post reporter's used him as a source for stories, she wrote, saying he was often quoted in stories about a long list of topics - "Republican politics, fundraising, Jewish causes, the Capital Athletic foundation...and his two restaurants." He was "influential" among conservative lawmakers. But was he a Republican? Howell never says...

The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican and dealt mainly with Republicans


Her column reported (incorrectly) that Abramoff "had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." And when it noted conservative readers' disappointment that no Democrats had appeared in the first tier of the scandal investigations, Howell couldn't resist adding "stay tuned!"

The column clearly pointed out that Abramoff is a Republican and dealt mainly with Republicans, most prominently former House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas.


Nowhere does her column say anything even approaching the statement that Abramoff "dealt mainly" with Tom Delay. Ironically, what it did contain was complaints from readers that the Post was ignoring Abramoff's closeness with DeLay. Maybe what Howell is remembering is brushing off those complaints with a shrug of "Whatever the degree of closeness," lauding the Post's reporters for "tying the two together".

I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.

Actually, what you should have said is he directed his client Indian tribes to reduce their contributions to Democrats.

I should give her points for saying this:'s a Republican scandal...

Except it's preceded by a sentence where she writes off every legitimate criticism as a laughable straw man.
I heard that I was lying, that Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money, that I was trying to say it was a bipartisan scandal, as some Republicans claim. I didn't say that. It's not a bipartisan scandal; it's a Republican scandal.

Well, half-lie. Howell did everything she could to imply this was a bipartisan scandal. (Saying Abramoff contributed "substantial amounts" to both parties.) Even what she meant to say would still have been misleading. The Post itself reported on June 2 that "Abramoff lobbyists channeled most of their clients' giving to GOP legislators."

Even stranger, Howell cited that very article last Sunday. And here's something important. That same June 2 article included the Democrats' statement that the tribes would have given this money anyways.

  • Kennedy co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus two years earlier, and he's personal friends with one of the tribe's chiefs.

  • South Dakota's Daschle pointed out he also received money from 59 non- Abramoff tribes.

  • Harry Reid is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Even Abramoff's firm conceded (in the Post's June article) that while Abramoff and his team "provided recommendations on where a tribe should spend its political dollars...ultimately the tribal council made the final decision."

So let's see, the Democrats got money from Indian tribes which had been giving them money in larger amounts before Abramoff became their advisor. Howell's actually brushing off a true statement. The Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money. (Abramoff didn't like Democrats. He once said that "It's not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently.")

The Post's defenders (including Howell) are hanging a lot of their arguments on this. If you squint, you can see a $2000 donation recommended for Democrat Jean Carnahan of Missouri, and there's also a $2000 donation recommendation for Georgia Democrat Max Cleland. The rest of the list is composed entirely of Republicans. (There's an entry for Tom Daschle on the list too, but it looks like it's been whited out.)

Again, Howell falls back on the formulation that allows her to claim that Democrats are somehow involved - and, that she wasn't wrong.

"Abramoff's Indian clients contributed money to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats

She seems to have forgotten all about that June article in which Democrats said they would have received that money anyways - the article she was so proud of just 7 days ago.

Credit where credit is due. I applaud Deborah Howell for saying this.

There is no more fervent believer in the First Amendment than I am, and I will fight for those e-mailers' right to call me a liar and Republican shill with salt for brains.

But just when you're starting to agree with Howell...
But I am none of those.



Then she goes on to whine that she was the victim of "a public stoning." And why?

"I don't know."

Oh, come on. Now she's just playing naive....

But it is profoundly distressing if political discourse has sunk to a level where abusive name-calling and the crudest of sexual language are the norm, where facts have no place in an argument.

Ah, facts. There were a few pesky facts which seem to have eluded Howell as well.

Okay, now that we've got it out of our system, I have to applaud Howell again. She cites a thoughtful email that she received, and quotes a whole paragraph of it. Okay, granted, it was an email from someone saying he'd decided that she did have integrity after all, and he was sorry he'd attacked her. But at least it showed her readers that not every one of the emails she got was abusive, obscene, or full of the "crudest sexual language."

And Howell does seem aware that she messed up. She at least alludes to that again, writing...

Going forward, here's my plan. I'll watch every word. I'll read every e-mail and answer as many legitimate complaints as I can.

I imagine next time she goes to write that Abramoff gave a bunch of money to Democrats, she will, in fact, be much more likely to double-check whether or not that's actually true.

And so it goes....

Originally posted to densityland on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 08:43 PM PST.


How do you feel about Deborah Howell now?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Accountability's a bitch, isn't it, Lovey? (none)
    Would you like some nice aged cheese with that whine?

    The Republicans made a big mistake: They became obvious. --Roddy McCorley

    by Sharoney on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 08:47:44 PM PST

  •  don't let up (none)

    this is not much of a retraction/correction

    weather forecast

    The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. - Paine

    by Cedwyn on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 08:52:25 PM PST

  •  I just emailed her... (none)

    Dear Ombudsperson:

    You write:

    "But there is no doubt about the campaign contributions that were directed to lawmakers of both parties. Records from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Public Integrity show that Abramoff's Indian clients contributed money to 195 Republicans and 88 Democrats between 1999 and 2004. The Post also has copies of lists sent to tribes by Abramoff with his personal directions on which members were to receive what amounts. "

    This is news indeed! Especially since, as far as I know, the only evidence so far produced regarding Abramoff's direction of Indian money to Democrats is this statement:

    "I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.

    (From this Washington Post article:)

    And that seems to indicate he was hoping to get the tribes NOT to contribute to Democrats.

    If you have evidence otherwise, I am sure all of America would like to see it.

    Until then, may I humbly suggest you rent some back episodes of Sesame Street, especially any dealing with the prepositions "AWAY FROM" and "TO", as in:

        * "Jack directed Indian contributions TO Republicans."
        *  "Jack tried to direct Indian contributions AWAY FROM Democrats."

    Repeat it over and over again. Eventually, you will master it. I am sure.

  •  Howell's "correction" (4.00)
    It's hard for me to understand what is really going on with her, if it is not just simple duplicity. Sometimes in my job, someone will verbally claim that I said something in an email that I don't remember saying. The FIRST thing I do is dig up the email and examine what it was I actually said. How could she have not done that? How could she honestly and innocently have made all those false statements about her original article?

    One has to assume that she simultaneously has both a very bad memory and boundless confidence in her memory. Otherwise, she would have double checked her memory against her article. I'm skeptical.

    What this looks to me like is that someone higher up in the food chain ordered her to apologize and correct her misstatements, and this is what we got -- a grudging and insincere apology. I'm reminded of the way children apologize: "Tell your sister you're sorry, Billy!"

  •  Howell vs. Kos - who wins? (none)

    Because in the end, she's only going to go do it again. Just about something else the next time there is a Republican controversy.... and we are just going to have to have to do it allllll over again to get the facts straight.

    Until she is no longer employed as the "ombusperson" at the Washington Post, this is going to be a never-ending battle to keep her honest I fear.

    The Washington Post takes the gold for most dishonorable partisan hack as an ombusperson

    by LeftHandedMan on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 09:00:01 PM PST

  •  She got paid to lie, but she got caught, by us. (none)
    First she tried to lie her way out of it. That didn't work because we called her on that one too, so she finally had to admit it. And now you are pointing out her next wave of lies, and a touch of truth.

    Abramoff got caught red handed and was forced to admit it as well. Does this make him ethical? I don't see where making what is at best a half assed admission, after one has already been caught red handed, is a sign of any sort of integrity. So no, I don't trust her as far as I can throw her. And more importantly, I don't trust the people who are paying her to tell such obvious lies. I'm gonna watch 'em like a hawk from now on.

    -6.88/-5.64 * You know what's happening. Fight it.

    by John West on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 09:03:56 PM PST

    •  BTW, (none)
      I don't see it as Howell vs kos. I see it as the Post vs the truth, and I hope the Post figures out that there's no future in being on the wrong side of the truth.

      -6.88/-5.64 * You know what's happening. Fight it.

      by John West on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 09:07:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  About WaPo & Capital Athletic Foundation (none)
    She says Abramoff "was often quoted in stories about a long list of topics - Republican politics, fundraising, Jewish causes, the Capital Athletic foundation."

    Wait a minute! I'd like to know whether WaPo ever delved into the realities of the Capital Athletic Foundation, which collected millions in charitable (presumably IRS-approved tax-deductible) contributions to fund programs to assist inner city youths in Washington and never helped any poor kid with so much as a dollar. Did they tell us about this swell guy with a heart of gold, on his say-so?

    Are reporters at this moment busy checking other reputed benefactors of poor kids? I can suggest a few I'd look into, had I the time, money, and skills; for one, the Philly church that hosted Justice Sunday III supposedly received a couple of million in federal grants, and I'm kinda suspicious about what was done with it, beyond hosting a gala event for Jerry Falwell and Rick Santorum.

    Joy of the iconoclastic mind-set

  •  From what I've seen... (none)
    ...believe it or not, I think Howell can be salvaged :)

    I think that she's part of an establishment that has gotten too used to doing "he said, she said" business, taking their cues too often from Republican PR pieces and "inside information".

    And I think she, like many in the traditional media, aren't even aware of it when they're doing it.

    So this is a bit of a "re-education".  It's painful; they thought they knew the rules.  Well, it's a new ballgame now, and people like Howell are going to have a tough time adjusting.  But adjust they will, with significant guidance :)

  •  the (none)
    the old lady got caught in a lie and now is doing her best Rovian tactics to back away from herself.  She is just another pathetic journalist in a nation awashed in them.

     I hope this serves them notice, "we ain't gonna put up with your shit anymore".

  •  If she can't take the "abuse"... (none)
    ... she's not a real reporter.  A real reporter goes out into the nitty gritty of real life and isn't afraid of it.  She would not shirk in any way to a threat, because if she is a real reporter she doesn't even see it; a real reporter only has her eye on the truth, and pays more attention to it than the discomfort she may have to endure to reach it.

    And then she reports the truth, not the story of her "suffering".  

    I mean there's nothing special here.  She goes to work in her late model automobile through finely manicured suburbia to the big office building and sits in her office chair no different than most anyone else in white upper middle class America.  (Ok, does it really matter how accurate I am?  I mean they don't really care about accuracy. why should I?)

    She's not a reporter.  She can't take it.  Don't startle her to much, she might spill her Starbucks. (pronounced "tar bucket", and yes I drink 'em)

    God, please bring us a crop of real reporters.

    Most people are idiots... But don't tell them. It'll spoil all the fun for those of us who aren't.

    by d3n4l1 on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 10:11:25 PM PST

  •  2 lessons here she learned (none)
    i) people are starting to pay more attention
    ii) people are starting to pay attention so she won't write about that anymore.

    it tastes like burning...

    by eastvan on Sat Jan 21, 2006 at 10:58:02 PM PST

  •  I am... (none)
    feeling terribly subversive tonight.

    I say we shut the mofo err... wapo (funny how your fingers make these freudian slips) down again.  This is no apology and does little to correct the record.

  •  I think this is an all-around victory... (none)
    we got one of the high-and-mighty amongst the Corporate Media to bow and contort themselves in direct avoidance of the truth.

    They flinched.

    And it felt good watching it happen, just from the effort and dedication of a few unwashed bloggers.

    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - it will be Blogged.


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