Politico's Ben Smith is eating a massive helping of crow from Obama supporters angry he and Matt Drudge posted the race-baiting attack falsely described by McCain supporter Ashley Todd in a most uncritical fashion. His lame apologia isn't helping the situation, and Politico GOP blogger Jonathan Martin adds noxiously that it "seems like McCain just can't catch a break." What went wrong here?Texas student Ms. Todd faked a backwards 'B' on her face and alleged a black Obama supporter had attacked her, as you no doubt know by now, causing Politico's comments section to launch into a feeding frenzy over editor Ben Smith's backpedaling. The elephant in the room is Drudge, of course, and critics are equally peeved at him. Since Todd herself has already been discarded by the media, it's time for Obama supporters and Ben Smith fans to express their anguish to the other folks who reported it as fact. In his follow-up to the story, Smith never admits he should have been more skeptical of the story and his colleague is downright depressed the girl wasn't telling the truth. As Smith puts it:
Traditional reporters (including me) are basically going to follow the old rules of journalism: Report that there's been an allegation put onto the public record, report what the police have to say about it, but generally shy away from speculating about things we're not sure about on a crime story. There are no such rules online though, something that sometimes makes me wince, but which in this case meant that bloggers on both sides quickly expressed their skepticism, and helped moderate the impact of a story that was designed to explode.Talk about shifting responsibility to a third person — Smith acts like he never even reported on the story in the first place. He has even responded vituperatively via e-mail to one particularly disappointed reader.