Of course, we’ve known for some time that Breitbart.com shouldn’t be trusted to get even the basics right: That was the big takeaway from the Shirley Sherrod story two years ago. And yet here we are, two years later, and the conservative information feedback loop still accepts whatever they toss out there.
Any reporter can get something wrong, any publication can hire a bad reporter, and anyone can mistakenly believe something, especially from a trusted new source, that turns out to be fraudulent. The question is what comes next. Does the reporter get punished for botching a story, or rewarded for generating partisan talking points? Does the publication redouble its efforts to enforce standards, or pride itself on the buzz? Do pundits and politicians learn to be highly skeptical of the news source and, if it doesn’t clean itself up, eventually shun it — or do they continue to cite it as if it’s totally legitimate?
The answers to date suggest that the GOP is perfectly happy to welcome into the tent an organization that is happy to fabricate “news” that supports conservative story lines. Andrew Sullivan today suggests that the Republican Party should take on Rush Limbaugh, but here’s an easier target: conservative “news” sites that don’t care about the truth. So where are the conservative politicians ready to do the job?