How to Take a Seven-Week-Old Quote and Make A Scandal Out of It

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 18 2012 12:20 PM

How to Take a Seven-Week-Old Quote and Make A Scandal Out of It

FREMONT, CA - MAY 31: Repubican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during news conference in front the shuttered Solyndra solar power company's manufacturing facility May 31, 2012 in Fremont, California. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loan money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Let's gather 'round the campfire and play a short game of "spot the bullshit." We start with Daniel Halper's headline.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Obama Spokesman on Solyndra: 'Widely Praised as Successful and Innovative'

An Obama spokesman said that? I want to read more, because that would be a nonsensical piece of spin in the year 2012. On to the lede:

Lis Smith, a spokesman [Ed - She's a lady, which is why I welcome the coinage "spox."] for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign, touted Solyndra by saying the failed energy company that received federally backed loans has been "widely praised as successful and innovative."

It has been! How recently? At the end of the third graf, Halper finally gives us the quote from a Detroit News story about Romney's pivot back to the "crony capitalism" attack.

In fact, both Republican and Democratic administrations advanced Solyndra's application, and the company was widely praised as successful and innovative both before and after receiving the Department of Energy loan guarantee.

So, the comment is actually dated. Before the loan guarantee, Solyndra was obviously praised -- Republicans, too, considered giving it aid. In the months after the loan guarantee, Solyndra raised more capital. The collapse really began in 2010. Anyway, the line sounded familiar to me. The reason: On May 31, reacting to Romney's last Solyndra push, Lis Smith said the exact same thing about the company, word for word, to the fantastic NYT beat reporter Ashley Parker. The Detroit News story doesn't even pretend that the quote is new.

The TWS item interested me because I like to predict which campaign nuggets will be devoured by Drudge or ThinkProgress or Obama or Romney. Sure enough, as I wrote this, a statement rolled in from Romney spox Ryan Williams.

Days after President Obama insulted business owners by crediting government for their achievements, his campaign has doubled down on Solyndra, calling the company ‘successful and innovative.’

How can you "double down" by releasing a statement that you made seven weeks earlier, and that you give every time the Solyndra story comes up? You can't. But if you're the Romney campaign, you can try and focus reporters who have to write daily on stories that have already been written. If you're in the press corps, or you're a reader -- too bad, sucker.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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