Politico Reporter Defends Rep. Akin, Gets Pulled From Story

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 20 2012 7:49 PM

The Catanese Conundrum

Late yesterday evening, Politico's Senate race reporter David Catanese warned his Twitter followers that he was going to piss them off.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Ok, I'm gonna (ask for it) & defend @ToddAkin for argument's sake. We all know what he was trying to say...

Catanese came to Politico in 2010 after five years reporting in Missouri. That level of state shoe leather experience is not rare, exactly, for a D.C. reporter. But it's a level of local knowledge that vanishingly few national reporters have about the state, and about Akin. Catanese started asking devil's advocate questions about what Akin must have meant.

Poor phrasing, but if you watch the intv @ToddAkin meant to convey that there's less chance of getting pregnant if raped.
So perhaps some can agree that all rapes that are reported are not actually rapes? Or are we gonna really deny that for PC sake
So looks like he meant to say -- "If a woman was REALLY raped, it's statistically less likely for her to get pregnant." What's the science?
So maybe. Just maybe, @ToddAkin didn't really mean 'legitimate.' Perhaps he meant if 'someone IS really raped' or 'a rape really occurs'

I read this last night and, yeah, it struck me as oddly naive. There's quite a lot of punditry on the social conservative side of things about rape, about whether the legal definition of "rape" is too broad. There's a good bit of junk science, too. Today, Akin himself told Sean Hannity that he meant to refer "forcible rape," a disintinction that makes very little sense to people who don't operate in the right win of the House Republican conference.

But over the course of an hour, Catanese started retweeting links that proved Akin wrong. The devil's advocate question fulfilled its purpose: He was finding out new info, and sharing it. Did he ask the question in fairly stupid way? Sure. Did he get too defensive? Yes: He accused "the Left" of overreacting to his questions. But this was how Politico responded.

David Catanese crossed a line a reporter shouldn't cross on Twitter when he seemed to weigh in on the merits of Todd Akin's comments -- especially in a way many people, including many POLITICO colleagues, understandably found offensive.

Dave's tweets on Akin created a distraction to his own work, and to the newsroom as a whole. They also made himself part of the story, requiring us for now to remove him from Akin coverage.

You see why the monster news organization did this, but did Catanese really "weigh in on the merits"? It seemed like he filed a tough Akin story, then started asking readers to consider what, if they were being extremely charitable, Akin could have possibly meant. That thing about "the Left" trying to silence dissent was a huge error, but generally speaking, I like the idea of asking readers if they can explain a controversial comment that you don't understand.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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