Huffington Post Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim says an apology is in order. Not a grand, formal one, mind you. But: “I think an apology simply on Twitter would suffice. They don’t have to make a big ceremony of it.”
The “they,” in this case, is the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, which last week savaged Grim over a thinly sourced story alleging that Scott Brown, a Republican senate candidate in New Hampshire (and former Massachusetts senator) had lobbied the Republican leadership to oppose a bill by Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The motive for Brown’s activism, said the report, was to deprive Shaheen of a legislative victory for her re-election campaign this year. Brown faces a primary election for the chance to take on Shaheen.
The bill at the center of the story — the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act — died.
The New Hampshire GOP accused Grim of journalistic horribleness, saying that he’d “failed to identify a single named or unnamed source to back up the phony rumor.” True about sourcing: The initial story, which appeared in the HuffPost Hill newsletter, didn’t identify any sources, though a spokeswoman for Brown later issued a statement to Politico that didn’t deny the allegation that Brown had been lobbying against Shaheen’s bill.
In a quick chat with Grim, Republican New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte admitted she had talked with Brown about the bill but specified that Brown hadn’t lobbied her. “I told him what my position was on it and he didn’t push me on that,” she told Grim.
Then! The Concord Monitor got more. In a piece that hit the paper in print on Sunday, the newspaper scored this bit of reporting:
Brown did talk to a number of Republican senators about the bill because he was concerned about a Keystone vote, but “he wasn’t lobbying,” [Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth] Guyton said. The position he shared with them is the same position he’s stated publicly, she said.
“He talks to (other Republicans) all the time about a lot of things, not just this one bill,” Guyton said to the Monitor. “He wasn’t lobbying, that’s been his position on it. . . . He wasn’t lobbying against her bill.”
Armed with Guyton’s explanation to the Monitor, the Erik Wemple Blog went back to the New Hampshire GOP and asked whether it had changed its tune regarding Grim. Answer — nuh uh.
Jennifer Horn, the group’s chairman, had this to say: “What Grim did was to invent a story about some kind of extraordinary, fictitious, coordinated lobbying campaign to stop a piece of legislation to deny Shaheen a ‘political win.’ And then essentially blame him for the defeat of the bill. That is a falsehood created and perpetuated by Mr. Grim.”
And this to say: “From what we heard from legitimate reporters, this was a narrative that was being pitched directly by the Shaheen campaign. Grim dutifully wrote the post on behalf of the Shaheen campaign without a single source – hence the tabloid-esque phony ‘sourcing’ in his initial post.”
And this to say: “Mr. Grim’s behavior in response to the entire incident has been telling and confirmed what was already clear: that he is more interested in political advocacy than legitimate journalism.”
And much more to say, too. The entire statement is at the foot of this post. It doesn’t include an apology.
When asked about the group’s claims, Grim responds, “They don’t know who my sources are…It was demonstrated to me beyond even a reasonable doubt that what I was writing was true.”
At the crux of the Grim-N.H. GOP spat lies a question about just what “lobbying” means. Is that a technical term relating to formal discussions and transactions, or a looser one that could encompass the sorts of conversations that Brown carried on with Republican senators? For some perspective on that question, the Erik Wemple Blog turned to Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute and a veteran observer of Congress.
Technicalities aside, Ornstein noted that there are “many communications that individuals have with lawmakers and staff that by any reasonable or logical standard are lobbying.” Further, Ornstein wondered aloud why Brown would confer with with Republican senators on such a bill. “There is one compelling explanation: he wanted them to quash the bill to keep Jean Shaheen from having a legislative victory,” notes Ornstein. “The fact that he repeated to them a public position face-to-face has little to do with it. He wanted them to kill the bill. By my standards, that is lobbying plain and simple.”
Statement from Jennifer Horn on Ryan Grim:
I read the story and there is nothing different that hasn’t already been discussed. Brown is a former Senator who has conversations with his former colleagues frequently about many topics. Nothing ground breaking or new there.
What Grim did was to invent a story about some kind of extraordinary, fictitious, coordianted lobbying campaign to stop a piece of legislation to deny Shaheen a “political win.” And then essentially blame him for the defeat of the bill. That is a falsehood created and perpetuated by Mr. Grim.
From what we heard from legitimate reporters, this was a narrative that was being pitched directly by the Shaheen campaign. Grim dutifully wrote the post on behalf of the Shaheen campaign without a single source – hence the tabloid-esque phony “sourcing” in his initial post.
He deliberately created this false narrative, than added fuel to his own fire by asking Democrat senators to weigh in on his phony story.
Then he caught up with Senator Ayotte in the hallway to try to push her to say that Brown lobbied her. When Ayotte denied the premise of his phony story, Grim decided he could craft a better hit job by deliberately and deceptively editing her quote. His interpretation of what Ayotte actually said was so laughably ridiculous that his account was mocked and discredited by New Hampshire media. And he further embarrassed himself by trying to claim that Senator Ayotte’s office had approved of his story – even after her spokesman publicly criticized his grossly inaccurate post.
Mr. Grim’s behavior in response to the entire incident has been telling and confirmed what was already clear: that he is more interested in political advocacy than legitimate journalism. His unhinged rants in response to media criticism of his deceptive editing, lack of standards and deliberate attempt to manufacture narratives reveal his true intentions. He also appears to be obsessed with trying to legitimize his own lies.
Mr. Grim is free to carry water for whoever he likes and push whatever mistruths are given to him by Democrat operatives. But we suggest he include a “Paid for by Jeanne Shaheen for Senate” disclaimer on all future attempts to dishonestly influence New Hampshire’s senate race.
Disclosure: Grim is a former colleague of the Erik Wemple Blog.