The Post yesterday said it would not retract its story claiming Bain companies pioneered in outsourcing. Today, however, The Post runs a story, not labeled a “retraction,” which seems to pull back on the original report.
It begins by talking about Mitt Romney’s discussion of Obamacare and then midway through the report: 1) asserts Obama ads in effect quoting the Post report “went beyond the Post article by calling Romney himself an ‘outsourcing pioneer’”; and 2) presents the Romney response ( “none of the companies cited sent jobs overseas during Romney’s tenure at the private-equity firm. He left in 1999. In material distributed to reporters on Wednesday, the campaign said that those companies added American jobs while Romney was at Bain and that their expanded overseas operations were aimed at supporting U.S. exports.”) That material, among other things, challenged The Post to cite specific evidence that jobs were moved from the United States to overseas locales.
Today’s Post account does not provide that data or address the particulars in the 10-page Romney document going through The Post’s original account point by point. Instead, The Post’s report states: “ The Post article was based on filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which showed that Bain had invested in several firms that described their businesses as helping other companies shift work to or expand overseas. The practice of shifting some processes to other companies or countries that can do them more efficiently has become widespread in recent decades as firms seek to become more competitive.” But that is a far cry from the the original Post story’s headline (“Romney’s Bain Capital invested in companies that moved jobs overseas”), which was not substantiated in the original report or the follow-up. According to the Romney team, that is because it was wrong — no jobs moved overseas.
The Romney camp declined to comment to me on The Post’ latest article. However, the New York Times provides some additional detail:
Armed with a PowerPoint presentation trying to rebut the allegations, a top aide to Mr. Romney met with Post editors Wednesday, seeking a retraction of the article, which focused on six companies that Bain Capital invested in while Mr. Romney was at the helm of the firm. Those familiar with the meeting said Gail Gitcho, Mr. Romney’s communication’s director, attended for the campaign.
“None of these six companies sent jobs overseas under Bain Capital during Mitt Romney’s tenure; in fact, they added jobs,” the Romney campaign said in its 10-page presentation. “None of the reporting in the Washington Post piece is factually accurate, and the piece should be retracted.” . . . .
Senior aides to Mr. Romney said Wednesday that the campaign decided to press their case against the Post article because it was so wrong, not because Mr. Obama’s charges are particularly damaging.
In the presentation, Mr. Romney’s campaign stressed that the six companies highlighted in the Post article added American jobs during Mr. Bain’s tenure.
The presentation offered statements from former executives of the companies. Scott Murray, the former president of Stream International, said that “Stream was not ‘shipping jobs overseas,’ but creating thousands of jobs for American workers in places like Massachusetts, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas.”
The correction in the Times story is even more revealing. It reads in part: “The [Post] article said that Bain had invested in companies that were pioneers in the practice of sending jobs overseas. It did not say that Bain had sent jobs out of the country during Mitt Romney’s tenure.” Actually, it claimed in its headline that Bain companies did send job overseas. By providing an example of a half dozen companies with overseas operations the average reader certainly would have concluded from the original Post story that these companies were examples of the purported outsourcing cited in the headline.
These developments suggest that the Romney team’s claim is correct that no jobs were outsourced by Bain companies during Romney’s tenure; its defense surely hasn’t been rebutted. It also appears, although Romney officials would not comment to me on their press strategy, that the Romney team is making a point to The Post and other media: It will be very aggressive with political reporters who mischaracterize Bain transactions and don’t contact those companies for verification of information. It will be open season on reports relying on a pre-packaged cookie-cutter assault on Bain that just happen to mirror the Obama team’s themes.
It is a cautionary tale for the press, to be sure. The Obama team has played fast and lose with the facts on the Bain transactions, recently drawing a four Pinocchio-rating from The Post’s Glenn Kessler. Obama officials may either not care about accuracy of its Bain attacks or not understand the business deals at issue. Reporters and pundits who take the Obama claims at face value are playing with fire.