When Did Reporter's Misquotes Turn Into Their Own Stories?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 23 2013 6:10 PM

August News Cycle Story Idea for Political Reporters: Political Reporters

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd speaks during a taping of Meet the Press at the NBC studios May 25, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

What's the New York Times Style section rule—three stories in one week makes a trend, right? Well, three times in the past week, a reporter has misquoted a prominent national political figure. Two of those reporters were from the Times and the Washington Post. But the unifying factor in all these misquotes is that none of them really changed the meaning of the original quote.

Last week, a Business Insider reporter misquoted Reince Priebus calling self-deportation "racist," when he actually said the idea of self-deportation "hurts us." Obviously, calling an immigration policy trumpeted by your party's last presidential candidate "racist" puts you next in line for Michelle Malkin's Twitchy Gauntlet of Pain and spits you out the Liberal Twitter Schadenfreude Slide. But Priebus still called it a "horrible" policy! NYT columnist Maureen Dowd misquoted New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's wife disparaging Christine Quinn slightly more than she actually meant to.

The third in the trifecta comes from Wonkblogger Ezra Klein, who supposedly misquoted Al Gore making up a hurricane category that doesn't yet exist. What Klein quoted Gore as saying:

“The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6.”

What Gore actually said, according to Gore's staff:

“The scientists are now adding Category 6 to the hurricane; … some are proposing we add Category 6 to the hurricane scale that used to be 1-5.”

Those quotes are pretty different, grammatically and substantively—"some are proposing" is a lot different from "they are adding." But three separate stories about misquotes shows the August news cycle is keeping the political press clawing for any scrap of iniquity it can publish—even from one of its own. Thankfully, all petty political news will be banished when Congress returns from recess.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Launching a Serious Run at Apple and Samsung


Slim Pickings at the Network TV Bazaar

Three talented actresses in three terrible shows.


More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?