If a reporter wanted to test the enthusiasm of College Republicans at a campus for John McCain, one might think that they would look up the officers of the chapter and arrange a few interviews.  CNN apparently found that a little too difficult at USC yesterday, so they just stopped the first person who claimed to be a Republican.  Andrew Malcolm reports on the aftermath:

The president of the College Republicans at the University of Southern California is charging that CNN used a “fake College Republican” in its broadcast report today, claiming there was a lack of enthusiasm for the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain.

A CNN spokeswoman now says it was an inadvertent error.

In its Thursday morning report, according to a news release from the student organization, CNN interviewed someone identified as Eric Pearlmutter, who was said to be a USC student and College Republican.

“We try to get people out to our College Republican meetings, but we can’t seem to get the same amount of support,” he said.

When the segment aired, it surprised Ben Myers — who actually belongs to the USC College Republicans.  Myers told CNN that the reason Pearlmutter can’t get people to meetings is that Pearlmutter never attends them himself.  In fact, Pearlmutter has never belonged to the group, and Myers would know — as president of the organization.

CNN quickly issued a retraction:

A CNN spokeswoman admitted the error this evening in an e-mailed response: ““Eric Perlmutter appeared on today’s ‘American Morning’ segment about young Republicans on college campuses. While he attends USC and says that he is a registered Republican, he was inadvertently identified on-screen as a member of the USC College Republicans organization.

“We regret that error. We have invited Ben Myers, the president of the USC College Republicans organization, to appear on ‘American Morning’ at a future time.”

Good for CNN for attempting to correct the record. Pearlmutter obviously posed as something he wasn’t. It wasn’t just a matter of being misidentified as a member of the group; Pearlmutter identified himself as a member, talking about getting people into meetings. They owe the real College Republicans a rebuttal, and they have made the right move in offering that to Myers.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that CNN did some very sloppy work.  College groups usually can be easily found, and if the reporter wanted to ask a member of the College Republicans about their support for John McCain, they should have made an effort to ensure that they spoke with a real member, and not a poser.