At best, this is extraordinarily irresponsible. At worse, it is malicious. Since Trump won the election, our national conversation has been marked by this approach: First, a “journalist” will present an exciting story as fact; then, to rile up the reader, they will inject some high-octane editorializing — perhaps an “in other words . . .” or a “this is not normal” or an “in 2018!”; and, finally, they will present the real story — or, in this case, admit that they are relying on “one source” and don’t actually “have any info” on whether it’s true or not. And then they will sit back and watch the initial claim go viral, and, if they are called on it they will refer their critics to the caveat they added afterwards.
The point here is not that Caldwell is necessarily wrong. I am skeptical myself, and Leonard Leo has categorically refuted the charge, but it’s certainly possible that we’ll see more of this story. The point is that this isn’t journalism. Because she did no research, Leigh Ann Caldwell has allowed herself to be used as a laundry service for political rumor-mongering. Whether deliberately or not, she’s become part of a partisan fight. Irrespective of whether she wanted to, she has made herself a mouthpiece, not an arbiter. “I heard a rumor” is not good enough. It’s not professional. Do better — or quit complaining about your cavilers.