At some point Bloomberg will stop piling further disgrace upon itself over this story. Just not today.
Slight update: After the Labor Department reinstated Leif Olson, Bloomberg Law published a new story noting Olson had rejoined the agency. I’m told, however, reporters at Bloomberg Law were instructed not to tweet the new story out. It has also not been promoted by @BLaw.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) September 5, 2019
John noted in his post last night that, as of close of business yesterday, the original Bloomberg story about Olson’s departure from the Labor Department still read, “Trump Labor Aide Quits After Anti-Semitic Facebook Posts Surface.” No one was calling the posts “anti-semitic” anymore, though — not the ADL, which retreated on Tuesday, and not Labor, which has now admitted error and rehired Olson. Absurdly, Bloomberg had spent the past three days defending its hatchet job on Olson by noting that the ADL and the Labor Department each agreed that his sarcastic Facebook posts were “anti-semitic,” even though we don’t know what information Bloomberg did — and didn’t — share with each organization when it brought Olson’s posts to their attention.
And even if both organizations did find Olson’s posts offensive, in no way does that absolve Bloomberg’s editors of their own lapse in judgment in letting the original story be published. Whether the Olson story was fair doesn’t, and can’t, depend on whether a dopey bureaucrat at the Labor Department who was eager to avoid bad press for his agency behaved rashly in leaping to axe a new employee.
The headline of the original Bloomberg story has now been changed to “Trump Labor Aide Quits After Facebook Posts Surface.” No more “anti-semitism” reference — but no retraction either. They haven’t even issued a correction, even though the story continues to insist that Olson’s appointment “raises more questions about the Trump administration’s vetting system for political appointees” (why?) and contains factual errors about Olson’s legal career.
Instead, Bloomberg has published a follow-up story reporting on Olson’s reinstatement by the Labor Department. Interestingly, this one was written by editor Terence Hyland, not reporter Ben Penn, who wrote the original hit piece and then spent the day on Twitter defending it on grounds that Olson had been working on wage-hour regulations for the Trump White House. “They’re now down one adviser,” he crowed after Olson was temporarily forced out. Why do you suppose Bloomberg didn’t trust Penn to write the story about his reinstatement?
Alex Griswold savors the irony of this clusterfark happening so soon after a media freakout about right-wing operatives vetting their social-media posts for offensive material. Only the media can be trusted to fairly and responsibly scrutinize and contextualize people’s Twitter archives, we were told:
Bloomberg knows as well as I do that the outcry won’t be sustained, and it can ride the controversy out. Fellow reporters will not treat the Olson affair as a permanent black eye for Bloomberg or Penn the way they did for Andrew Breitbart after the Shirley Sherrod affair.
To bring things full circle, the prospect of reporters getting unjustly sacked because of old posts received more sustained outrage than when a man outside their in-group was unjustly fired. Olson gets to go to work today, but so does Penn, with nary a mention on CNN or a biting rebuke from the Times. Who expected otherwise?
Ten days later after the “right-wing operatives” panic, we’re standing on the rubble of Bloomberg’s reputation, with the organization not only seemingly dead set against acknowledging obvious error but allegedly instructing employees not to do so either. That’s media accountability in 2019, at least when a right-wing grievance is concerned. Exit question: Did anyone at all edit Penn’s original story before it went live on Bloomberg’s website? Don’t be so sure.
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