WaPo's Uncorrected Errors in Elizabeth Edwards Obit

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See the above screenshot detail of CBS News' news report stating that John Edwards admitted to having an affair. The admission was made in August 2008, not January 2008 as the Washington Post stated in a December 2010 obituary for Elizabeth Edwards. (Credit: YouTube, CBS News, screenshot detail)

Reader Glenn Merritt, who has called on the Washington Post to correct errors previously, alerted us to his unfulfilled request for a correction in the Washington Post’s December 2010 obituary for Elizabeth Edwards.

The Edwards obituary states that Edwards’ husband, John Edwards, ended his campaign for U.S. president after admitting he had an affair with Rielle Hunter.  However, as Merritt pointed out, Edwards didn’t admit his affair until seven months after ending his campaign in January 2008.

Patricia Sullivan’s Dec. 8 story for the Post reads, emphasis ours:

In January 2008, when her husband publicly admitted to having repeatedly lied about carrying on an affair with campaign aide Rielle Hunter, the campaign came to an abrupt end. In January, after her husband said he had fathered a child with Hunter, the Edwardses separated.”

See the full story on the Washington Post’s website here.

Edwards did end his campaign in January 2008; however, he didn’t publicly admit to the affair until August. The Washington Post itself published John Edwards’ statement admitting to the affair with Hunter on August 8, 2008.

In that statement, Edwards said: “In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs.  I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness.  Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public…But being 99% honest is no longer enough.”

The New York Times explained in 2009 the timeline of the ending of Edwards’ campaign, emphasis ours:

Edwards dropped out of the race in January 2008 after poor showings in the early Democratic contests. In August he admitted on ABC News that he had had an affair with Ms. Hunter but denied being the father of her child. He said the affair had occurred while his wife’s cancer was in remission.”

The Washington Post’s story already features a correction, but it doesn’t address the timeline error Merritt noted.  Apparently, the Post correctly said that John Edwards admitted his affair in August 2008, but incorrectly said that he ended his candidacy at the same time. The corrected version of the article maintains that Edwards ended his campaign because of the affair.  The correction reads:

“Earlier versions of this obituary of lawyer and political spouse Elizabeth Edwards misstated in one instance the month in 2008 when her husband, John Edwards, ended his candidacy for U.S. president. He withdrew from the competition for the Democratic nomination in January 2008. This version has been corrected. “

But the timeline error isn’t the only mistake in the Washingon Post’s Elizabeth Edwards obituary.  Further along in the Dec. 8 obituary, the Post states, emphasis ours:

But the Edwards campaign ended in January 2008 after coming in third to Obama and Clinton in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “

But in Iowa, Barack Obama came in first, Edwards came in second, and Clinton came in third, as Bloomberg reported at the time.

iMediaEthics wrote to the Post’s corrections e-mail account asking if it will publish the following corrections:

  • While Edwards did end his campaign in January 2008, he didn’t admit to the affair until August 2008;
  • that Edwards ended his campaign not because of the affair but “poor showings” ;
  • and that Edwards came in second in the Iowa caucus

We also sent our inquiry to Washington Post senior editor Milton Coleman.  We will update with any response.

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WaPo’s Uncorrected Errors in Elizabeth Edwards Obit

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