Cainaquiddick: Where Source-Based Journalism Goes to Die

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 3 2011 4:17 PM

Cainaquiddick: Where Source-Based Journalism Goes to Die

Early this morning, the citizen journalism site PJ Media had a doozy of a humdinger of a scoop. The site's D.C. editor Richard Pollock got the main byline on a tag-teamed story based on two anonymous sources' account of a late 1990s incident involving Herman Cain. A woman -- PJM didn't reveal the name -- had some sort of encounter with her boss at the NRA.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

According to both sources, Mr. Cain and the woman had been with a large group for a long evening of food and drink at the Ciao Baby Cucina, a restaurant near NRA headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. This was anormal routine, as the trade association worked with the food and beverage industry. Afterwards, Mr. Cain allegedly took the woman by taxi to his apartment, where she spent the night and woke up in his bed. The female source told PJ Media that she witnessed the woman entering a taxi with Herman Cain.
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I don't think I have to spell this out, do I? PJM had the makings of a huge story. Until they didn't. Here's how the killer section reads now.

According to the female source, Mr. Cain and the woman had been with a large group for a long evening of food and drink at the Ciao Baby Cucina, a restaurant near NRA headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C. This was a normal routine, as the trade association worked with the food and beverage industry. Afterwards, Mr. Cain allegedly took the woman by taxi to his apartment, where she spent the night and woke up.

What happened? Behold, the most embarassing, born-yesterday correction of November 3, 2011.

A previous version of this story mentioned that a source witnessed Cain and the woman entering a taxi together. This was incorrect. The previous version also mentioned that the woman awoke in Cain’s bed — the source only claimed that the woman awoke in Cain’s apartment. The previous version incorrectly attributed comments from one source to the other source.

That's not a correction. That's a massacre. I'm half expecting the next update to report that the man in question was not Herman Cain, but the popular comic actor Charlie Murphy, and that the woman was actually a Japanese body pillow. And this comes the same day as a widely-linked Washington Times story about whether or not Rahm Emanuel is behind the Cain story, attributed to "a source who is friends with the Cain campaign." Friends with the campaign!

The liberal media's reputation is coming out of this a whole lot healthier than the conservative media's reputation, isn't it?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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