My piece Wednesday morning on ABC's intentionally misleading RFK-Obama headline attracted significant attention on both the left and the right. Here is how things went down.
It was noted on sites like The Wonk Room, Eschaton, CBS Political Hotsheet, Media Matters, The Wall Street Journal, AOL Political Machine, Solve Climate, Hot Air, National Review and American Thinker.
Finally, we have some clarity. RFK Jr. has broken the silence and slammed ABC news for their "purposefully provocative and inaccurate headline":
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. today said he was not including President Barack Obama when he labeled as "indentured servants" candidates in the Presidential election who support industry-backed "clean coal" projects.
"It is disappointing that ABC News' otherwise excellent interview with me about Big Coal's dirty lies was marred by a purposefully provocative and inaccurate headline," Kennedy said today.
What is interesting to me is how eager Brian Ross and the ABC team were to shut this story down. A quick timeline:
12:00 PM: Someone in the News Media Relations department at ABC contacted Huffington Post to get my contact information.
12:19 PM: I got an email from Brian Ross, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent:
Could you please call me re: your RFK story. Your assertions are wildly inaccurate, which you would know if you had bothered to contact abc news. 212-XXX-XXXX.
12:49 PM: I was contacted by the ABC News Media Relations. They asked me to update with a correction.
1:12 PM: I called Brian Ross. He was cordial but clearly agitated. He disagreed with my characterization of his piece, and asked me to update it. I told him I would update later, but still felt strongly that his headline was intentionally misleading. He said twice that I was "entitled to my own opinions but not my own facts." Back at you, Mr. Ross.
1:32 PM: I thanked the News Media Relations staffer for contacting me, and let her know I was in direct contact with Brian Ross.
3:27 PM: The News Media Relations staffer emailed again, asking when my piece would be updated. I told her I would update first thing tomorrow morning, and added "Also, your headline is still misleading and intentionally deceptive. When will it be updated?". She has not yet responded.
Not surprisingly, as of 6:30 PM, they have still not updated the original and inaccurate headline. A simple link at the top of the page to the clarification from RFK Jr. would do the trick.
Also of note, a Huffington Post editor confirmed via email that they were contacted by ABC about my piece. Huffington Post handled the situation well, but it raises questions. At what point does a misguided call for a correction turn into an attempt at intimidation? Is it hypocritical for ABC to ask for immediate updates to what they consider inaccurate blog posts when they refuse to update their inaccurate headlines in a timely manner?
Update: Solve Climate is demanding an apology from ABC.
This is in amazing contrast with how Fred Hiatt and The Washington Post have (mis)handled the serial distortions of George Will's Will-ful Deceit and the extended pain of The Will Affair with its civil war inside the paper.
Writ large, while the element re RFK, JR, was abusive and provocative, this seemed a not too bad discussion of "Clean Coal". What do you think?