The Telegraph of the U.K. puts up an entirely unsourced story claiming, “In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries [the United States and Britain] than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa. ‘We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,’ the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: ‘The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.’ ”
On its face, the story isn’t credible. The Romney campaign doesn’t make a practice of talking to foreign press. I’ve never heard Mitt Romney, his policy adviser, his foreign policy adviser or any foreign policy briefer or staffer use the term “Anglo-Saxon heritage.”
But that doesn’t matter. The pack journalists begin tweeting it out. The cable news people begin to chatter about it. The Romney team puts out a statement: “It’s not true. If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”
Some mainstream reporters confess to the Romney campaign that their editors tell them they have to write on it. (Have to? What if it’s not true?) Well, if one of them writes on it, others will follow.
And how did the Telegraph quote magically get to so many reporters? The Obama team sent it to them. Nothing wrong with that, if the press would be honest about the origin of the story.
As we saw in the Romney-Bain resignation story, the Boston Globe was forced to concede that the story it ran with first appeared in Mother Jones and TPM, two left-wing blogs that simply repeat Democratic talking points. That’s how the oppo game works, but only the Boston Globe “bit” on that one.
It is so blatant that sometimes the reporters forget to hide their trail. Every once in a while a journalist neglects to delete the part of the e-mail string from the Democratic National Committee prompting him or her to ask certain questions before they route it over to the Romney camp. Yeah, major “oops.”
Repeating an unsourced quote at the behest of one campaign without verification, and with zero evidence that anyone in the campaign said it, isn’t journalism. It’s political propaganda. And reputable news outlets should stop it.
Now there is a story here about how nervous the Obama team is about Romney’s overseas visit, as evidenced by this episode and the defensive conference call by Robert Gibbs and others before Romney even left the country. Funny, there is no coverage of that. Maybe it is because the media has become willing pawns in that endeavor.