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Wonkette on bogus Rothstein tip: ‘I wanted it to be true’

Wonkette is responsible for a frenzy of wasted energy last Friday in and around Washington. The site’s Rebecca Schoenkopf passed along a tip from someone saying that controversial FishbowlDC Editor Betsy Rothstein was “out at Fishbowl as of this afternoon.” E-mails and tweets flew everywhere, including to the Erik Wemple Blog, then en route north on I-95. Reporters contacted Rothstein for comment.

Later in the day, Wonkette slapped this addition onto the “story”:

Good news you guys! Betsy Rothstein HAS NOT been fired! We repeat! Betsy Rothstein is still e-i-c of a maaaaajor website’s gossip site! We talked to a person who would know, “not for attribution,” who says that no, Betsy Rothstein has not been canned despite the constant headaches she brings to Mediabistro, a GIANT national website that apparently loves lawsuits and constant ire, and also racism.

There was a time when “update” meant update.

Wonkette’s “update” sent Washington journos into “as you were” mode. Never mind, in other words. Rothstein herself has now written a post narrating her side of things. On Friday, she writes, she was taking a day off from work — that’s all. The Fishbowler takes direct aim at Schoenkopf’s sourcing for her post: “Rebecca didn’t spell this out, but her ‘source’ was a guy [who] makes it his business to pass around a bogus naked Craiglist ad of one of my writers.” Nor did Schoenkopf bother to confirm the story with Rothstein or with Rothstein’s higher-ups, charges Rothstein.

Most of which Schoenkopf confirms. “My excuse is I was mainlining paint thinner all morning. I can’t stand Betsy because she’s a vile human being. All of her reporters are intellectually dishonest, of which I disapprove. We didn’t actually say she was going to be fired. We were just asking the question. When it turned out no, I just updated,” Schoenkopf told the Erik Wemple Blog this morning.

Nor does Schoenkopf deny that there was some wishful thinking behind the exercise in non-journalism: “I don’t like her; I wanted it to be true,” says Schoenkopf.

Such desire stems at least in part from this Rothstein piece on FishbowlDC, which concerns Schoenkopf’s alleged ejection from a Politico party during the Republican National Convention last year in Tampa. The piece is based on tweets and a posting by Schoenkopf, and the details are even more irrelevant now than they were then. In any case, Schoenkopf charges that Rothstein played her for a liar without having checked with anyone else. “She assumed I made the whole thing up, *before* even asking [Politico]. Then took their denial at face value and called me a liar,” writes Schoenkopf via e-mail.

No way, counters Rothstein: “My sources for my story on her at the GOP Convention in Tampa were based on people who were there and witnessed her behavior. But none of this has anything to do with her completely inventing a story about me getting fired on Friday and not checking with my employer until after her story published.”

What a great outcome: One gossipy Web site accuses the other of poor editorial standards; the other accuses it of poor editorial standards.

When asked what distinguishes Wonkette from FishbowlDC, Schoenkopf says: “We’re only [crappy] to people who deserve it. We don’t go around to private citizens and make their lives hell.” It’s a reference to the FishbowlDC series that said the vilest things about a local PR operative as well as to these butt photos. Schoenkopf’s true feelings about Rothstein are featured prominently and frequently in this post.

When asked how FishbowlDC edges out Wonkette in the editorial-standards department, Rothstein said she was working on a response. We’ll “update” if we get it, or perhaps launch an Erik Wemple Blog series on this pissing match.