WaPo ombud: Man, our Koch Bros hit piece was kind of unfair, huh?

posted at 4:30 pm on October 23, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

I can’t wait for Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton to read his paper’s hit job on Marco Rubio.  For now, though, we’ll just have to entertain ourselves with Pexton’s admission that his paper’s hit job on the Koch Brothers was an embarrassment:

But I think The Post erred in republishing this story, or at least in the way it did. And when the Kochs complained to The Post after publication, The Post’s response wasn’t handled well.

Now, I couldn’t find any outright falsehoods in the story that would warrant corrections. Bloomberg, too, has published no corrections. But I think the story lacked context, was tendentious and was unfair in not reporting some of the exculpatory and contextual information Koch provided to Bloomberg. …

As Indiviglio and Rubin wrote, lots of companies have foreign subsidiaries that until recently did business with Iran, including GE, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar. Many multinational companies have been investigated and prosecuted for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and been fined and prosecuted for violating clean water and clean air laws.

Are the Kochs worse, better or in the middle? We can’t tell from this story.

Post Business Editor Greg Schneider said he “was aware” before republication that “the piece had stirred up some reaction, but we look to highlight work that is provocative.”

I think newspapers should always be provocative. But they should also be fair and provide context.

Pexton credits our friends at Power Line for doing a “deep-dive legal rebuttal,” one aimed primarily at Bloomberg, the WaPo’s partner in this effort, whose response John Hinderaker utterly destroys in his final installment.  Pexton says that Power Line has “ties” to the Kochs, which might be true but would be rather surprising to me, since John’s an incredibly successful attorney in Minnesota who hasn’t — as far as I know — done any work for the Kochs. Even if he had, though, it doesn’t make John’s arguments invalid, although Pexton seems petty enough to try to attack John’s credibility with this utterly unsubstantiated descriptor.

For the record, I’ve appeared at events (without compensation) sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit with significant funding from the Kochs, and I think that means I have more ties to the Kochs than John does.

While Pexton throws that little jab at Power Line, he never once mentions that one of the corporations that the WaPo neglected to include in the article as at least as complicit as the Kochs, GE, has indisputably deep ties — to the White House.  Its CEO chairs one of Barack Obama’s advisory boards on economics and has been a contributor to his campaigns.  One might have thought that between the Kochs and GE on the issue of doing business with Iran, the one that has ties to the President of the United States might have been the bigger story.  Apparently, not at the Washington Post.  What does that say about their biases?  YMMV.

Still, Pexton admits that the piece was unfair, decontextualized, and unprofessional in not following up on the response from the Koch Brothers.  That’s a start, anyway.  I’ll keep an eye out for Pexton’s review of his paper’s hatchet job on Rubio, one so bad that the Miami Herald ended up doing Pexton’s job for him.

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Pexton looks like he stole James Traficant’s hair.

Mark1971 on October 23, 2011 at 4:37 PM

You do realize that this is the left wing’s media’s new strategy, don’t you? Publish a hit piece that amounts to journalistic malpractice. Get lots of additional press for the hit piece until its false accusations are assumed true by a majority of Americans. And then quietly have your “ombudsman” criticize the piece, when no one is listening or reading. I imagine they even give the ombudsman a heads up: “Hey, we’re publishing this really sleazy piece on Rubio tomorrow, but we think it will help the democrats. You’re probably going to have to be all ‘Ooh, that was bad journalism’ in a couple of days, okay?” “Yeah. Got it. I’ll act real disappointed and stuff.”

Rational Thought on October 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM

We all know the left has had the long knives out for the Koch Brothers and some elements of the MSM has carried their, er, knives. And haven’t examined GE’s practices as well. Two good points.

However, I’d like a better explanation from the Kochs as to why their subsidiaries were doing business with Iran even if it was legal. The fact that GE or other companies engaged in the same practices is not a defense for me.

American companies – and their subsidiaries – should do everything they can to not help the Iranian government. Even if the transactions are legal.

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Pexton says that Power Line has “ties” to the Kochs, which might be true but would be rather surprising to me, since John’s an incredibly successful attorney in Minnesota who hasn’t — as far as I know — done any work for the Kochs. Even if he had, though, it doesn’t make John’s arguments invalid, although Pexton seems petty enough to try to attack John’s credibility with this utterly unsubstantiated descriptor.

Petty is being too kind, Ed.

As for the actual claim,thinkprogress.org did the original “digging”:

Hinderaker is an attorney for the law firm Faegre and Benson. Despite his previous role handling “ethics and professional responsibility” for Faegre, he has failed to disclose in his Koch-friendly blogging that Koch is a major client for his firm. Faegre represented Koch Industries in cases related to Koch’s theft of oil (using the famed “Koch Method” of manipulating oil data) in Texas and North Dakota, in cases against Koch’s own employees regarding Koch’s speculative weather derivatives business and an environmental whistleblower case, and in a case against a Koch subcontractor. In an ongoing case, Hinderaker’s firm represents Koch Industries in a class action suit brought by a group of plaintiffs regarding oil Koch allegedly stole from wells in Oklahoma. In addition, Hinderaker has defended the Bradley Foundation after we profiled the group and its support for Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). Hinderaker never disclosed that he is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, a front that has received over $3 million from the Bradley Foundation.

That was from July 2011.

Del Dolemonte on October 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM

No bias to see here. Move along.

Cicero43 on October 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Shouldn’t these folks look at this stuff before it’s published? The “damage” is done.

Cindy Munford on October 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Go to Powerline and read John Hinderaker’s posts – they let it go for a while, but stopped their subsidiaries from doing business with Iran years ago, on their own decision. It’s still legal for subsidiaries to do that, but the Kochs are operating in excess of the law – even if it means lost business. To GE, for example.

JeffWeimer on October 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are the betes noire for liberals, much like George Soros is the bugbear for conservatives.

That opening quote is provocative. One of these things is not like the other.

Kini on October 23, 2011 at 4:53 PM

For the record, I’ve appeared at events (without compensation) sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit with significant funding from the Kochs, and I think that means I have more ties to the Kochs than John does.

You’d think the WaPo would pay for tips like this, but all I was offered was a 10% discount of home delivery. Unbelievable.

cynccook on October 23, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Go to Powerline and read John Hinderaker’s posts – they let it go for a while, but stopped their subsidiaries from doing business with Iran years ago, on their own decision.

Yes, I read the Powerline pieces. Hinderaker and the Koch Brothers admit to selling to Iran through subsidiaries. That was all legal.

But they shouldn’t have done so. I’m glad they stopped but why did they start?

The right to do something is not the same as the right thing to do.

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

the strategy has been clear for a while. Get a leftist scum pond like Thinkprogress to do a hit piece (facts not required) then pick up the story at a more “respectable” venue…then months later, if you must, say ‘well, maybe it wasn’t entirely fair’

the press has become a leftist fever swamp…not so much biased as palace guards of the left, armed with barrels of ink

r keller on October 23, 2011 at 4:58 PM

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 4:39 PM

Go to Powerline and read John Hinderaker’s posts – they let it go for a while, but stopped their subsidiaries from doing business with Iran years ago, on their own decision. It’s still legal for subsidiaries to do that, but the Kochs are operating in excess of the law – even if it means lost business. To GE, for example.

JeffWeimer on October 23, 2011 at 4:58 PM

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Chances are, they were doing business before the Koch’s bought them.

JeffWeimer on October 23, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Go to Powerline and read John Hinderaker’s posts – they let it go for a while, but stopped their subsidiaries from doing business with Iran years ago, on their own decision.

Once again: good for them for stopping. But why did they start? Did they approve of these transactions? I assume they did. Why?

Just because I agree with them politically doesn’t mean they get a pass for seemingly questionable – albeit legal – business behavior.

I want to know what their motivation was. They don’t have to give me one, of course.

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Well, of course Powerline has ties to Koch Industries. Their law firm has purchase Georgia-Pacific paper for their copiers, so it’s a financial connection.

iurockhead on October 23, 2011 at 5:04 PM

“Hey, we’re publishing this really sleazy piece on Rubio tomorrow, but we think it will help the democrats. You’re probably going to have to be all ‘Ooh, that was bad journalism’ in a couple of days, okay?” “Yeah. Got it. I’ll act real disappointed and stuff.”

Rational Thought on October 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM

This has been standard operating procedure for the democrat press for decades.

Tim Zank on October 23, 2011 at 5:11 PM

The Washington Post is so exhausted from vetting Sarah Palin, the Koch Bros. and Marco Rubio that it’s had no time to look into the background of that guy — what’s his name again? Oh yeah, Obama. The President of the United States.

Cicero43 on October 23, 2011 at 5:12 PM

Koch Brothers…….Satans’ twins.

The Palestinian leadership…..SMART POWER!!!

How about this little jewel tucked away in Commentary magazine today?

It is no secret that Hamas was strengthened by the conclusion of its ransom deal with Israel in which over one thousand Palestinian terrorists were freed in exchange for the safe return of Gilad Shalit . But its Fatah rivals are not taking this triumph lying down. In the wake of the announcement that Hamas will be paying each of the released killers, almost all of whom are either directly or indirectly responsible for the murders of Jews, a bonus of $2,000, the Palestinian Authority has also decreedthat it will be paying every one of the murderers a separate honorarium though the amount was not specified.

That PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man that is supposed to be Israel’s peace partner, will pay this cash reward for murder, is an irony that is lost on an Obama administration that continues to urge the Jewish state to make concessions to the PA.

This is of more than passing interest to American readers since hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds are transferred to the Palestinian Authority every year.

That means Uncle Sam is paying a subsidy to mass murderers.

That’s a not insignificant point to remember when Congress decides whether or not to continue the flow of aid to the PA.

OBAMA 2012…….You ain’t gettin any betta than this!!!

PappyD61 on October 23, 2011 at 5:21 PM

As usual the Kos Kids commenting at the WaPo are angry little campers!

Sad to see the Post sink as low as this — to apologize for running a decent piece for once. Bringing up Soros was a red herring, a non-sequiter, a laughable sop to the rightwing shriekers, whom obviously have the ombudsman cowering and kissing their butts.

Oh, I see. The story about the two biggest robbers among the robber barons, was completely and unassailably true, so the Post shouldn’t have published it, or at least should have provided the Kochs’ lawyers an opportunity to print outright lies in the Kochs’ defense.

Shorter Patrick Pexton;

The Koch Brothers are guilty as charged, the WaPo had their facts straight, so I find them guilty of telling the truth, and therefore; George Soros. George Soros. George Soros.

Del Dolemonte on October 23, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Ed, what I don’t understand is why HotAir drives traffic – the very thing that they need to survive – to WaPo or the NYT. Why help them? They don’t get hyperventilated links for fair and correct stories.

Instead, attribute – but don’t link.

beatcanvas on October 23, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Just because I agree with them politically doesn’t mean they get a pass for seemingly questionable – albeit legal – business behavior.

I want to know what their motivation was. They don’t have to give me one, of course.

SteveMG on October 23, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Hmmm….I’m not sure this is a big deal at all. It seems this is on-going. For example, a list of companies that sell to all kinds of countries that may be rather questionable…
3M sells to the Sudan
American basketball players play for Iran teams
A number of companies like Siemens sell medical equipment and pharmaceuticals to Iran. Libya, Veneuela, etc.
Still others sell animal feed and pulp for paper
Some like Pepsico. Mars,Tyson, and Phillip Morris sell food products and cigarettes and even alcohol
Anyway you get the idea. These are all licensed by our government. And heck we won’t even get into all the products sold to Libya and good old Khaddaffi. Does it make it right? I don’t know. The government refers to these as humanitarian products.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/12/24/world/24-sanctions.html

Deanna on October 23, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Thank heavens he wasn’t dumb enough to capitalize “republication”.

unclesmrgol on October 23, 2011 at 6:00 PM

When TV’s Andy Leavy protests he never begins a sentence with the words “I think…”.

Ditto Opus.

29Victor on October 23, 2011 at 6:06 PM

Let’s see WaPo (aka Obama’s Water Carrier) un-ring the bell. It’s typical MSM bullshit. Publish the story LOUDLY, then a couple of months later, print a partial retraction on page 36.

GarandFan on October 23, 2011 at 6:32 PM

This is the title, from a post in The War Room – Salon. I am not going to link to Salon. They are attacking anyone they perceive as a threat to the Obama, and his agenda.

The real problem for Marco Rubio
He’s probably not the serial embellisher a new story makes him out to be, but it’s still a sign of a deeper issue

BY STEVE KORNACKI

The smear machines are out and in full tilt boogie.

Dr Evil on October 23, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Dear WaPO,

All of the layers of editors available at your business are unable to understand what professional journalism is nor how to fact check an article.

Fire them.

All of them.

And any writers involved with this story.

Do not accept any of their work in the future as they don’t know how to write an article that is factual, based on substance and has multiple sources to back up their assertions.

You are destroying your own brand each time you publish such articles. No correction or apology will get back that brand identity you used to have as you are seen more and more as a partisan publishing corporation with deep ties to only one part of the political spectrum and are unable to identify bias in your own staff from writers to editors. That is a problem. Your readership will fall off both locally and Nationally and there are papers willing to take up those readers both online and in print.

I suggest you publish your code of ethics not just for your staff but to the public and make it freely available. Then let your staff know that all it will take is one transgression and they are fired for violating it. And before you publish it get it checked out by individuals across the political spectrum so that it is seen as an honest and transparent code of ethics amenable to all.

ajacksonian on October 23, 2011 at 7:07 PM

YMMV

Never seen this one before – what’s it mean?

disa on October 23, 2011 at 8:17 PM

disa on October 23, 2011 at 8:17 PM

Your Mileage May Vary–based on mileage estimates in auto ads.

juliesa on October 23, 2011 at 8:32 PM

I just knew Ed was in the pocket of the Koch bros.

John the Libertarian on October 23, 2011 at 9:30 PM

You do realize that this is the left wing’s media’s new strategy, don’t you? Publish a hit piece that amounts to journalistic malpractice. Get lots of additional press for the hit piece until its false accusations are assumed true by a majority of Americans. And then quietly have your “ombudsman” criticize the piece, when no one is listening or reading. I imagine they even give the ombudsman a heads up: “Hey, we’re publishing this really sleazy piece on Rubio tomorrow, but we think it will help the democrats. You’re probably going to have to be all ‘Ooh, that was bad journalism’ in a couple of days, okay?” “Yeah. Got it. I’ll act real disappointed and stuff.”

Rational Thought on October 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM

They have been doing this for a very, very long time. It’s just that now, we have the internet to call them on it.

98ZJUSMC on October 23, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Del Dolemonte on October 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM

Faegre and Benson? The partners are major enviro-libs. They handled the Exxon Valdez tort case. I know, I used to work for the company that did all the photocopying. One million plus clicks on our Xeroxes and Canons over four years for that one case alone.

Missy on October 24, 2011 at 12:06 AM

I think any piece on the Koch brothers qualifies as “unfair” at this point, from the literal standpoint of their hard relevance as anything except a bogeyman.

The Kochs are the new Rove, or Yoo. Liberal political junkies invoke their foul name everywhere to try to sow a sense of reactionary outrage in the public, and all they get in reply is, “huh?”. Not counting the giggles from conservative political junkies.

HitNRun on October 24, 2011 at 1:06 AM

Who expects the DNC newsletter to be fair, anyway?

malclave on October 24, 2011 at 1:58 AM

You do realize that this is the left wing’s media’s new strategy, don’t you? Publish a hit piece that amounts to journalistic malpractice. Get lots of additional press for the hit piece until its false accusations are assumed true by a majority of Americans. And then quietly have your “ombudsman” criticize the piece, when no one is listening or reading. I imagine they even give the ombudsman a heads up: “Hey, we’re publishing this really sleazy piece on Rubio tomorrow, but we think it will help the democrats. You’re probably going to have to be all ‘Ooh, that was bad journalism’ in a couple of days, okay?” “Yeah. Got it. I’ll act real disappointed and stuff.”

Rational Thought on October 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Give that man a Kewpie doll!

NavyMustang on October 24, 2011 at 2:15 AM

I bet the OWS crowd wishes they had some of that toilet paper the Koch brothers make.

pat on October 24, 2011 at 2:39 AM

Thanks for the synopsis, EM. And you’re correct: John Hinderaker utterly destroys (the Bloomberg story narrative).

locomotivebreath1901 on October 24, 2011 at 7:05 AM