December 4, 2012

Earlier today, Grover Norquist was on MSNBC’s “Now with Alex Wagner” talking about the “fiscal cliff” and taxes. During the interview, Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of TheGrio.com, pointed out the president of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) once said that letting the Bush tax cuts expire would not violate his no-tax-increases pledge. Norquist pushed back.

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What she is quoting is a Washington Post misreading of what I said in an editorial board meeting, which was corrected that day. So, I said it correctly three times and  evidently incorrectly one time and the reporters decided to run with the one. But it was fixed before noon the next day.

The only thing right about what Norquist said was that he talked with The Post editorial board. His startling admission that letting the Bush tax cuts expire would not violate his pledge was big news in July 2011. That was right in the middle of the debt-ceiling fight between President Obama and congressional Republicans. And Ruth Marcus was the one who peppered Norquist on the question and wrote the editorial highlighting what was seen as a hopeful development.

When I contacted Marcus to get her reaction to Norquist’s revisionist history, the columnist was characteristically blunt. “Nothing was ‘corrected.’  Nothing needed to be ‘corrected,’” Marcus told me in an email. “I asked Norquist repeatedly whether allowing tax cuts to expire would be a violation of the pledge–precisely in order to be certain that we were not ‘misreading’ what he said. Anyone who has any question about whether he was misinterpreted or taken out of context doesn’t need to rely on my recollection. Just listen to the audio and judge for yourself.” You can listen to the audio of the exchange between Norquist and Marcus if you click here.

ATR was none too pleased with the editorial and wrote a letter to the editor, which ran on PostPartisan with comment from the board on July 21, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.  By 2:40 p.m. that same afternoon, Marcus filed a PostPartisan of her own.

You will notice that Norquist’s group, in its artfully worded response to a Washington Post editorial quoting Grover Norquist as saying that letting the Bush tax cuts lapse would not violate the no new taxes pledge, did not deny that’s precisely what he said. Repeatedly.

So, despite what Norquist says, nothing was “fixed.” Counter to what he said on MSNBC, nothing was corrected. The man whose hold on Republicans is weakening is the one who stands corrected — again.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.