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As a former reporter on the local and state government beat in Virginia (among other places), tonight's royal fuck-up by the Associated Press really pisses me off.

Just over an hour ago, the "esteemed" AP breathlessly reported this campaign-busting scoop:

Documents in a federal fraud case allege that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a Rhode Island estate planner now imprisoned for receiving death benefits on annuities secured on terminally ill people without their knowledge.

A 2011 fraud, conspiracy and identity theft indictment against Joseph Caramadre and an aide, Raymour Radhakrishnan, also alleges that McAuliffe misled a federal postal inspector who was inquiring about a $2,000 check Caramadre had sent him.

Wow, that's it for old Terry, I thought to myself when I saw the story break. Just when it looked like he had this thing wrapped up.

Those thoughts were echoed by throngs of reporters and right wing blogs, who eagerly pounced on the story--the latter gleefully chortling that this article would change everything in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Breaking: AP: McAuliffe lied to federal investigator in fraud case was one headline at right-wing fruitcake blog Hot Air.

The only problem was, as the AP has now conceded, the story was completely untrue. The AP has further more or less admitted their only evidence tying McAuliffe to the case was mention of a certain "T.M." in the body of a court filing.

Are you fucking kidding me?

After the story spread like wildfire, some journalists actually took time to investigate further, finding this paragraph in the court filing, which clearly proves the allegations untrue (unless you believe Terry McAuliffe was doing home construction in Rhode Island in 2010):

On or about April 20, 2010, the Postal Inspector met with T.M. and asked if a $2,000 check he received from CARAMADRE was a payment for referring a terminally ill individual to CARAMADRE. T.M. intentionally lied to the Postal Inspector, telling him that the check was not a payment for referring a terminally-ill individual to CARAMADRE, but rather was a payment for construction work that T.M. had performed in CARAMADRE’s house.
Apparently, because McAuliffe was an investor in the annuities in question, the AP made the astounding leap that the "T.M." named in the case HAD TO BE Terry McAuliffe.

The McAuliffe campaign  vehemently denied the charges:

The person referenced on page 68 is absolutely not Terry McAuliffe since he was a passive investor and did none of the things referenced: First, he was not interviewed by law enforcement on April 20, 2010; rather, he was in Richmond for a day of meetings. Second, he was never involved in the referral of any annuitants to Mr. Caramadre, ever.
In the past hour, AP has issued the following:
BREAKING: Associated Press withdraws story about documents in a federal fraud case alleging that Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official.
MORE: The indictment did not identify McAuliffe as the "T.M." who allegedly lied to investigators
What a black eye for journalism and for the AP. The AP is getting roasted on Twitter right now, and, frankly, they deserve all of the abuse they get for going with such a paper-thin, no-sourced farce of a story.
AP: TM? JK! Dave Weigel
AP should remember old rule of City News Bureau of Chicago: "If your mother says she loves you, CHECK IT OUT."  Roger Simon
So the McAullife story lasted for about ten minutes before falling apart. This is what is known as a CNN unit.  TBogg
I live in Virginia and I'm no McAuliffe fan, but you better believe I will vote for him and drag all of my friends screaming and yelling to the polls to defeat teabagger Ken Cuccinelli. The AP deserves plenty of shame for this debacle, but I'm wondering if there is more to the story, if this was an "October surprise," clumsily executed as most Tea Party plans are.

The Cuccinelli camp was sure quick with a response: "There is no question that this is a deeply troubling story, and what it reveals most of all is yet another glaring example of Terry McAuliffe doing business with highly dubious individuals."

All of this will eventually come out, but what is sure is that the Associated Press should hang their heads in shame tonight.

Apologies for a hastily-written diary, but our pitiful media is a sore point with me and I needed to get this out there. Thanks!

UPDATE: Stories about this journalistic debacle are starting to appear online. Here is one from Media Matters. The Atlantic  has another good write-up, which includes another killer tweet:

In fairness to @AP, Terry McAuliffe is the only person in America with the initials T.M.  Judd Legum

Originally posted to kat68 on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 09:42 PM PDT.

Also republished by Virginia Kos.

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