WaPo research on display on Page 1

I didn’t take much notice of the Washington Post article on the front page today by Matthew Mosk regarding “unusual” donors to the John McCain campaign.  It didn’t find any wrongdoing, for one thing; it made an insinuation of wrongdoing by association that it didn’t back up with facts.  The Norman Hsu case, in contrast, built on odd donation patterns but didn’t get reported until actual wrongdoing was apparent, with Democratic bundler Hsu being a fugitive with a penchant for Ponzi schemes.

Now, however, a correction rides above the web version of the article that renders Mosk and his editors as risible examples of a media salivating for dirt on McCain.  Take a look at the correction and the first paragraph of the story:

Correction to This Article
The first name of McCain donor Faisal Abdullah was misspelled in some versions of this story, including in the print edition of The Washington Post. Also, the article incorrectly identified a Rite Aide manager and two Twilight Hookah Lounge owners as being among the donors Sargeant solicited on behalf of McCain. Those donors – Rite Aid manager Ibrahim Marabeh, and the lounge owners, Nadia and Shawn Abdalla – wrote checks to Giuliani and Clinton, not McCain.

The bundle of $2,300 and $4,600 checks that poured into Sen. John McCain‘s presidential campaign on March 12 came from an unlikely group of California donors: a mechanic from D&D Auto Repair in Whittier, the manager of Rite Aid Pharmacy No. 5727, the 30-something owners of the Twilight Hookah Lounge in Fullerton.

Excuse me, but doesn’t that gut the entire premise for the article in its entirety?  The only “odd” donor left is the mechanic, and no pattern exists any longer.

This would not have come to light had it not been for Amanda Carpenter, who did what the Post’s layers of fact-checkers and editors apparently couldn’t be bothered to do: their jobs.  Amanda went to Open Secrets, a web site that makes public all contributions to political campaigns, and checked the names against the records.  Three out of the four never came up as McCain contributors at all.  I’d guess that it took Amanda about ten minutes at the outside to check this, ten minutes that the Post couldn’t bother to expend.

Amanda writes:

That means these people Mosk alleged had been somehow forced to make campaign contributions to McCain through a third-party bundler NEVER DONATED MONEY TO MCCAIN.

The very lede of Mosk’s front-page story, included in my previous post linked above, was wrong.  What’s going on with the Washington Post? How could they have blown this one so badly? And where did the March 12 contribution date come from?

She also notes that Mosk had earlier produced another poorly-researched attack piece on John McCain regarding land-swap legislation that Mosk tried turning into a scandal.  (So did the New York Times, and I wrote about that here.)

That makes twice that the Post has jettisoned normal fact-checking in order to rush an attack piece against McCain onto its front page.  The Post owes its readers more than just this correction — they owe them a retraction on the front page of tomorrow’s paper. If this is the level of journalistic competence we can expect from the Post, then they have signed onto the Gray Lady Express to the fringe.