At 11 a.m. today, one of FoxNews.com's top stories was an article about a Nevada brothel owner endorsing Ron Paul. But the story wasn't written by Fox News; it was a tweaked version of an Associated Press story that hit the wires early Monday. And, to make matters even more muddled, that story was taken from a Reno Gazette-Journal piece . Something was lost in translation.
The original article was a solid piece about a strange scene at a Ron Paul event in Reno. Tucker Carlson, who was trailing Paul for a magazine piece, invited his friend Dennis Hof out to the event. Hof, who owns the Moonlite BunnyRanch brothel, emerged from a limousine with Carlson and two prostitutes. He then took a liking to Paul and decided to endorse the Republican, saying that he would "get all the Bunnies together, and we can raise him some money."
The Associated Press then adapted the story and sent it out on the wires. But the AP story that Fox News published is different than the one the AP originally ran.
- The headline: "Paul Endorsed by Nevada Brothel Owner" became " 'BunnyRanch' Brothel Owner Endorses Underdog GOP Candidate Ron Paul." Note that Fox News thinks you need more detail to know who Ron Paul is. Also, they add the brothel's name in the headline--the Playboy bunny allusion makes it a bit sexier. It's common practice for news organizations to spice up AP headlines.
- The donation box: One of the best details in the AP story is Hof's plan to put a "collection box" outside the brothel's door for patrons to donate money to Paul. It's not in Fox's story.
- The kicker: In the most curious change, Fox took a sentence from the middle of the AP's article and stuck it at the end. By concluding the piece with the true statement, "Paul also is a devout Christian who opposes abortion," it makes Paul sound like a hypocrite for accepting the brothel owner's endorsement. You don't get that impression reading the AP's article, which is more about the oddity that a political candidate isn't trying to distance himself from Nevada's brothel industry.
In principle, Fox hasn't done anything wrong. News outlets edit AP content all the time, and the AP's senior managing editor told me that Fox was within its rights to make changes to the copy. He added that he doesn't think Fox's tweaks change the fundamental tone of the story.
I disagree. The emphasis on its home page and the altered kicker suggest Fox is getting in a dig at Paul, however minor it may be. But if Fox wanted to make Paul look like he was taking money from prostitutes and their patrons, why remove the detail about the donation box? I'm not asking for fairness or balance--just consistency.
One more detail that Fox inexplicably eliminated: The damning revelation that MSNBC anchor Tucker Carlson emerged from a limousine with prostitutes at a political event. Have Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes gone soft?
UPDATE Nov. 27, 11:25 a.m.:
The Associated Press
has video from inside