In an interview with David Uberti in the Columbia Journalism Review, Daily Caller Editor in Chief Tucker Carlson found himself again in the position of defending a story under fire from other media outlets. And in a stance that’ll surprise no one, he stands by it.
“We make plenty of mistakes and we cop to them,” Carlson said. “If it’s shown that we were wrong, I’d say it right way. It’d save me a lot of time.”
At issue is the Daily Caller’s story from November 2012 alleging that Sen. Robert Menendez had engaged prostitutes in the Dominican Republic over Easter 2012. That story got shredded in the months following its publication and surfaced again this week, as The Post reported that the story about Menendez’s alleged sex romp may have been planted by Cuban intelligence officials seeking to discredit the anti-Castro lawmaker.
“If [Menendez] can show that we are somehow agents of the Cuban government, then damn it, I’ll apologize,” Carlson told the Columbia Journalism Review. Menendez is the subject of a Justice Department inquiry over his dealings with friend, donor and eye doctor Salomon Melgen, on whose behalf Menendez has intervened over Medicare billing issues.
This story has shifted onto what appears to be welcome terrain for Carlson. The Post’s reporting about the Cubans, that is, may actually relieve pressure on the conservative website. The discussion now centers on just who went to great lengths to present the story of Menendez contracting with prostitutes. Was it Cuban intelligence, U.S. political operatives or some other shadowy special interest? As The Post’s story acknowledges, there’s no hard evidence that the Cubans are behind the whole thing — just “evidence obtained by U.S. investigators.”
Less attention, accordingly, falls on what we’ve known for months and months, which is that the the prostitution story itself, whoever propagated it, has fallen apart. An investigation by the Dominican national police even upended the story. Long before Cuba emerged as a dimension to this saga, the Daily Caller had ample evidence that some mix of correction/retraction/apology was in order.
In defending his site’s original story, Carlson says, “We had two women, live people, on live camera, making allegations about something they experienced. That’s a pretty compelling rationale for a story.” Other outlets, including ABC News, found it a shaky rationale for a story and walked away. Wisely, as it turns out. If nothing else, the Daily Caller’s fiasco with Menendez disproves Carlson’s glib statement to the Huffington Post about his chosen profession: “Journalism? Find out what happened and tell your readers,” he said in a riff that started with a slam on journalism school. “How hard is that?” Pretty!