It certainly sounded like a sexy story when the Washington Post first published it. Midday yesterday, the North Carolina legislature’s lower house voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto, helped in part by some missing Democrats on the floor. Where were those representatives? Here’s what the Post initially reported:
North Carolina Republicans overrode a budget veto while Democrats were at a 9/11 ceremony https://t.co/b6kvApZaqn
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) September 11, 2019
How many North Carolina House Democrats were at a 9/11 ceremony at the time? Er … one, as the Raleigh News-Observer reported, as well as Cooper himself, who obviously doesn’t get a vote:
Some headlines suggested that Democrats were at events commemorating the 9/11 attacks — the vote was taken at roughly the same time as the national moment of silence. But The News & Observer has confirmed only two Democrats attended 9/11 events.
One was Cooper, who spoke at the North Carolina National Guard’s Sept. 11 commemoration in Raleigh.
The other was Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat, who says he attended an event in Raeford.
Where were the other Democrats? No one knows, but they weren’t tied up at memorial events. They accused Republicans of breaking the rules, but the News-Observer reports that the GOP did not break any rules in holding the vote — and that vote had been telegraphed for a while. Republicans had been listing the override on the daily calendar every day, including yesterday.
Maybe Democrats should have shown up to work.
After reporting initially and erroneously that Republicans held the vote while Democrats attended 9/11 memorial services, the Washington Post corrected their article. Kidding! They just tweaked it to maintain the same criticism while avoiding the fact that it no longer applied:
While most North Carolinians were remembering the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, the Republican leaders in the General Assembly took advantage of a half-empty House and voted to override the governor’s budget veto Wednesday morning.
“Most North Carolinians,” perhaps, but only one House Democrat. That showed up much farther into the amended report:
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D) said he told his caucus members that they did not need to be in attendance and that state Rep. David Lewis (R), chairman of the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee, gave Jackson his word that there would be no votes, according to the News & Observer.
Republican leaders denied giving any such assurance. The Associated Press reported that the office of Republican Speaker Tim Moore provided audio from Tuesday’s floor session of Lewis saying that recorded votes would happen Wednesday.
Republicans also disputed the claim by the governor and other Democrats that many of them were attending events remembering 9/11 victims and first responders. Local news reports said only one or two Democrats claimed to have been attending a 9/11 memorial at the time of the vote.
Let’s recap. First the Post gets the story entirely wrong by claiming that the caucus was all attending memorial events, only to find that only one Democrat was busy at a memorial. Then the AP produces audio from the previous session warning that the assembly would hold votes on Wednesday. Shouldn’t this warrant a full retraction?
Maybe from newspapers interested in dealing with the facts. In the Post’s case, all readers got was a “clarification” along with its deceptive re-editing:
Clarification: An earlier version of this article overly generalized the reason for Democrats’ absence from the General Assembly session. This version has been updated.
The Post didn’t just “overly generalize” what happened. It flat-out got it wrong, because its reporters just repeated the Democrats’ allegations without checking with other reporters or even the other Republicans to find out the facts. And now, even when presented with the facts, the Washington Post is still spinning for the Democrats rather than just admitting to getting caught with their pants down.
But hey, democracy dies in darkness, or something.