Fox New’s “Happening Now” program today picked up on a juicy little story in The Hill about Republican state party cells. The piece led with a killer quote from Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl:

“I wish I could tell you we were doing well right now — we’re not. Ron Paul has totally taken our [state] party over.”

According to The Hill, Kyl issued that assessment to a state party activist. And when the Arizonan appeared on “Happening Now,” that dramatic statement rightly fronted the list of questions of co-anchor Jenna Lee:

One of the things that you just told The Hill is quite telling about how you feel about the state of the Republican Party within your state of Arizona. You say, “I wish I could tell you we were doing well right now — we’re not. Ron Paul has totally taken our [state] party over.” Tell us more about that. Why do you feel that way?

Kyl then proceeded to effectively accuse a nearly two-decade-old, established Capitol Hill publication of severe misjournalism:

I did not say that. And he has not taken the Republican Party over.

In his chat with Lee, Kyl did say his party was having some fundraising difficulties. Once the senator concluded a lengthy reply, Lee circled back, kind of:

All right, so I’m glad we clarified that. Because The Hill has you quoted directly about that comment on Ron Paul, so we wanted to make sure we got your response to that.

Pity that Lee couldn’t have channeled cable peer Soledad O’Brien of CNN: Frown a bit, look perplexed and just say, Really, so you’re saying The Hill just made this up? Or quoted a complete liar? But Lee moved on and Kyl wasn’t forced to address the implications of his assertion.

The Hill publishes oodles of political news stories as well as “The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful People” And no matter what you think of highlighting congressional corridor-treading hotties, consider that The Hill isn’t a frequent case study of ethical and factual breakdown on Poynter.og, though it did take a little incoming from Media Matters for America earlier this year for failing to include important disclosures in the columnar work of Dick Morris.

When politicians pull this act on media outlets, there’s a failsafe approach to determining whether they are serious or just trying to puff up their chests on TV: Have they asked the allegedly offending outlet for a retraction or correction?

Kyl spokesman Joe Hack says that they’ve asked The Hill to clarify the situation: The senator never made such a statement about Ron Paul nor does he believe that. The quoted conversation took place between Kyl and a party activist and the reporter, Cameron Joseph, inaccurately interpreted it, says Hack. That said, Kyl & Co. are “not going to create a huge issue about this,” says Hack.

Hugo Gurdon, editor-in-chief of The Hill, issued this statement: “These comments were made on the record at an event hosted by The Hill. We stand by the integrity of our reporting one-hundred-percent.”