Newsweek‘s Howard Kurtz had reported Oct.2 that Pelosi stated “I think you need to talk about how poorly they [the White House] do on message. They can’t see around corners; they anticipate nothing.” See Kurtz’s article here.
However, Pelosi stated she didn’t say that. Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, is quoted as telling POLITICO that “she never uttered those words, on the record, off the record or on background, nor did our office.”
Newsweek/The Daily Beast has added a correction and editor’s note reading:
“An earlier version of the story included a comment erroneously attributed to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, criticizing the White House’s efforts at political messaging. Newsweek and The Daily Beast regret the error.””
POLITICO reported that Kurtz, who has built a career criticizing the work of other journalists on his “Reliable Sources” TV program, actually “never interviewed Pelosi” and instead wrote from “a group of reporters'” notes. Therefore, Kurtz got the fake Pelosi quote from Lois Romano’s notes and somehow misinterpreted the notes.
According to TPM, Newsweek attributed the error to a “misread” of “notes of an interview conducted by a colleague,” yet makes no comments on why its own high-paid reporter is unable to conduct the interview himself. At the end of the article, Daniel Stone, John Solomon, Eleanor Clift and Lois Romano are listed as having done “reporting” for the story. Too many cooks spoil the spin?!
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called for accountability and questioned who said the quote and if contributors, like Romano, read the article. StinkyJournalism agrees and has our own questions: Why did Kurtz get the byline instead of one or any of the four reporters who actually did the legwork? How do you misinterpret a quote in this way? Were the notes bad or was the quote too good to be checked? Also, Kurtz has been a media critic for decades and this error is … fairly significant. We sent a list of questions asking Newsweek/the Daily Beast how this error occurred and will update with any response.
Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins added that Kurtz’s reporting for Newsweek “may be better known for its blockbuster corrections than for the content he actually set out to provide.” Kurtz joined Newsweek in October 2010 and in January 2011 issued a huge correction to his Nov. 27 story on Rep. Darrell Issa.
That correction explained that Kurtz had attributed quotes to Issa from an interview, but Kurtz never interviewed Issa. Instead, it turned out that Kurtz interviewed Issa’s spokesperson and didn’t realize he wasn’t speaking to the congressman. On top of that, Kurtz waited more than six weeks to file the correction because he was “puzzled.”