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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 01:49 PM ET, 10/10/2012

Daily Caller whiffs on Raddatz hit

Have a look at the headline on a widely circulated Daily Caller story from 12:10 a.m. today:

ABC News scrambles to downplay Obama’s attendance at VP debate moderator’s wedding

The news flash is making its way to a fair number of people, given its top placement this morning on the Drudge Report. Gist-wise, the Daily Caller story documents how then-Harvard Law School student Barack Obama attended the 1991 wedding of Martha Raddatz and Julius Genachowski, a classmate of Obama’s at the time. It’s quasi-news now because Raddatz tomorrow night will moderate the vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. And how can she do a fair job in such a role if the now-president attended a wedding of hers more than two decades ago?

In addition to poking at potential coziness between Obama and Raddatz, the Daily Caller allots some good real estate to explaining how ABC News deployed a prevent defense on the story. Here’s how it read:

After TheDC made preliminary inquiries Monday to confirm Obama’s attendance at the wedding, ABC leaked a pre-emptive statement to news outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast Tuesday, revealing what may have been internal network pressure felt just days before Raddatz was scheduled to moderate the one and only vice-presidential debate Thursday night.
Both Politico and The Daily Beast jumped to ABC and Raddatz’s defense. The Huffington Post, a liberal news outlet, joined them shortly thereafter, while calling “unusual” ABC’s attempt to kill the story before it gained wide circulation.

Here’s the statement that ABC News sent around to preempt the Daily Caller story:

Martha Raddatz is known for her tough, fair reporting, which is why it was no surprise to her colleagues inside and outside ABC News that she was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates for this assignment. Barack Obama was a law school classmate of Raddatz’s ex-husband Julius Genachowski at Harvard. At the time Barack Obama was a student and president of the Law Review. He attended their wedding over two decades ago along with nearly the entire Law Review, many of whom went onto successful careers including some in the Bush administration. Raddatz and Mr. Genachowski divorced in 1997 and both are now remarried.

The Erik Wemple Blog was among those that received ABC News’s early warning about the upcoming Daily Caller story. “I don’t flack for you!” I said in jest to an ABC News official. No way was this blog going to pass judgment on a yet-to-be-published story. No way was this blog going to take the word of ABC News as to what the Daily Caller was prepared to publish. No way was this blog going to put its cred on the line given the possibility that the Daily Caller might have some very damaging wares on the connection between Raddatz and Obama.

Oh what a fool this blog was.

The Daily Caller piece disappoints in ways that the Daily Caller has perfected. What it belches out is a melange of society column puffery with a layer of investigative chest-beating on top. Sample the most successful passage of the story:

Genachowski — called “Jay” at the time of his wedding, sources told TheDC — and Raddatz would go on to have a son together before their divorce in 1997. They have both since remarried to other people.

Bold text added to highlight investigative journalism.

Here’s more strange Daily Caller content:

On Monday evening ABC spokesman David Ford grudgingly confirmed Obama’s attendance at the wedding, after shielding Raddatz in August by declining to comment when The Daily Caller first reported the story.
“This is absurd,” Ford said, in the same statement now circulated by ABC’s media allies on the left.
Obama, Ford wrote, “attended their wedding over two decades ago along with nearly the entire Law Review, many of whom went onto successful careers, including some in the Bush administration,” he said without providing a specific number of Harvard Law Review employees to verify the statement.

If ever this great country of ours needs to verify attendees at a long-ago wedding, it knows where to turn.

Through the mists of hyperventilation, the Daily Caller manages to document that there’s a connection between Harvard Law School and Washington power. And something even more fundamental, as ABC News Senior Vice President Jeffrey W. Schneider puts it: “Genachowski had invited his classmates to his wedding.”

The hit job is of a common strain: Maximize innuendo and suggestion; don’t bother with the hard work of proving a conflict of interest. Raddatz’s bio on the ABC News website leaves many clues as to where a Daily Caller investigator would search for evidence of her collusive ways. She worked in the early ‘90s at the ABC News Boston affiliate WCVB-TV, then at NPR from 1993 through 1998 and made the jump to ABC News in January 1999. She has served as the network’s senior foreign affairs correspondent since 2008, producing a bounty of work that should be just spilling over with examples of how she favors her wedding invitee.

None of that stuff gets probed, however, in this Daily Caller piece. We know only that Obama danced at a wedding reception, according to a “source” in attendance. When you’re relying on anonymous sourcing to substantiate dancing, isn’t that a sure sign that your story is failing?

ABC’s Schneider has no regrets about pre-blasting the Daily Caller, even if the move handed the conservative publication grist for its story. “There’s no doubt that they were going to publish this story,” he says. “Their point was to publish the story as hard up agaisnt the debate as possible, in a rather obvious attempt to somehow spin Martha Raddatz before this debate. They put it on Drudge — that is their play, start to finish.”

By  |  01:49 PM ET, 10/10/2012

 
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