The New Hampshire Republican Party set off alarm bells today to candidates and elected officials that HuffPost cannot be trusted.
In a lengthy memo today, Jennifer Horn, the New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairwoman, warned that HuffPostengages in “deceptive practices” because of stories published this week on Senate hopeful Scott Brown, who is vying for Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen‘s seat. The stories address Brown’s opposition to an energy bill sponsored by Shaheen and supported by GOP New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. One of the HuffPost stories asserts that Brown urged Senate GOP Leadership to block Shaheen’s bill and “deprive her a legislative victory.” The New Hampshire GOP insists that Brown did not “lobby” GOP Leadership against the bill and says HuffPost got it wrong.
The memo’s subject line cracks on the left-wing political leanings of the pub: “Deceptive Practices Employed By Liberal Huffington Post.”
Ryan Grim, HuffPost‘s Washington Bureau Chief and author of two of the stories in contention, said the New Hampshire GOP is making hay out of nothing. In fact, he says, he has sourcing to back it up. “Not only do I have well placed Senate sources familiar with the calls Brown made against Shaheen-Portman, his campaign admitted it!” he told The Mirror.
He’s referring to a statement that Lizzie Guyton, Brown’s communications director, made to Politico: ”Scott Brown was concerned that Senator Shaheen was refusing to allow a vote on the Keystone pipeline, a commonsense and bipartisan project that would immediately create thousands of jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.”
The New Hampshire GOP stressed that they would no longer participate in stories by HuffPost. The memo sternly warned that any of the New Hampshire GOP candidates could be next.
“The Huffington Post spent several days trying to advance a phony story of its own creation in an attempt to influence our United States Senate race. While this particular issue focused on Scott Brown and Senator Kelly Ayotte, similar incidents could occur involving any one of our outstanding Republican candidates or elected officials.”
The memo insists there was no sourcing to “back up the phony rumor.” They cite another story by Grim that included reaction from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and point out that Sen. Maj. Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor to talk up HuffPost‘s story. The memo warns that the news soon spread to other liberal blogs.
A key point of contention is an interview Grim had with Ayotte. He asked if Brown pressured her to “slow down” the bill. “No he didn’t,” she told him. Listen to audio of their conversation here.
From the memo: “The mistakes made in the post are too serious and egregious to be considered a simple error, which leads to the obvious conclusion that this was a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation.”
Not so, says Grim. “Forget the fact that Scott Brown has already admitted to doing what the NH GOP now is apparently claiming he didn’t do,” he wrote The Mirror by email. “Parse this Ayotte quote for yourself: ‘I told him what my position was on it and he didn’t push me on that.’ Why would Ayotte say he ‘didn’t push’ if they agreed on the bill? That makes no sense. He made a call expressing his well known public opposition to Shaheen-Portman and she told him she was going to vote for it anyway. She’s being polite, but the context of the call is crystal clear.”
Those in opposition to this interpretation say that Brown did not “lobby” against the bill “for political gain.” Rather, he spoke to a former colleague, which he does regularly, and pressed for the amendment for the Keystone XL pipeline to be included.
Guyton says the real culprit is Sen. Harry Reid. “Even Jeanne Shaheen has admitted the reason her bill died is because Harry Reid wouldn’t allow a vote on the Keystone Pipeline,” she wrote in an email. “The only sad thing here is that Shaheen joined Reid in blocking the bill from moving forward.”
Grim said he spoke with Ayotte’s staff after his story went up and addressed a complaint they had with his story.
“They objected to the uses of the phrase ‘ignored Scott Brown’s wishes’ and instead said they preferred ‘didn’t factor in Scott Brown’s wishes,’” he continued in his explanation. “So we changed the headline to reflect that, because I found that a fair argument. So if Ayotte’s office is on record confirming my headline and story as accurate, that’s a pretty big — and I’d argue unanswerable — problem for them. Scott Brown knows what happened. The NH GOP should give him a call and ask before adding us to their long list of boycotted media outlets.”
[Update: Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone disagreed with Grim's account. He told WaPo, “The latest updated version bears no resemblance to the original, which was grossly inaccurate and misleading. The story still fails to include direct comments from Senator Ayotte that would have discredited the original premise that she was pressured to vote against the legislation. The whole thing is a non-story."]
Grim said the New Hampshire GOP is having trouble with the truth.
“The NH GOP’s fundamental problem here is that they’re trying to deny something happened that Brown has admitted happened; that I know happened; that they know happened; and that many people on the Hill know happened. There is a reason Brown admitted to it: It happened, and too many people know about it for him to deny it. And to his credit, he did not try to deny it. The NH GOP should follow his example.”
Horn, the New Hampshire GOP chairwoman, had this to say about Grim’s sentiments about the her state party: ”That is the rant of an unhinged activist not an objective journalist.”
A concluding warning from the New Hampshire GOP:
“Left wing blogs like Huffington Post have a right to carry water for liberal politicians like Jeanne Shaheen, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama. They are free to peddle mistruths and falsehood that damage their credibility if they chose. But they shouldn’t be viewed as serious or trusted news institutions that provide unbiased coverage.”
See the full memo…
Over the past several years the lines have been blurred between credible news organization and partisan organizations pushing misinformation. The problem was on full display this week when the liberal blog The Huffington Post spent several days trying to advance a phony story of its own creation in an attempt to influence our United States Senate race.
While this particular issue focused on Scott Brown and Senator Kelly Ayotte, similar incidents could occur involving any one of our outstanding Republican candidates or elected officials.
Earlier this week, the Huffington Post published a blog that falsely accused New Hampshire Republican candidate Scott Brown of “lobbying” Republican senators to kill a bill sponsored by Senator Shaheen “so as to not give Shaheen something to run on.” The post failed to identify a single named or unnamed source to back up the phony rumor. The bill ultimately failed because partisan politicians like Harry Reid and Jeanne Shaheen refused to allow an amendment to approve the bipartisan Keystone XL Pipeline that has been blocked by the Obama Administration.
The next day, the Huffington Post manufactured another post by asking liberal Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for reaction to their false report. Predictably, Schumer launched phony partisan attacks against Brown.
The next day, liberal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the United States Senate to launch partisan political attacks based on the false, unsourced post published by his ally, the Huffington Post. The false story was spread as his dishonest attacks were picked up by other liberal blogs.
Later that day Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post, approached Senator Kelly Ayotte in the halls of the senate to ask her if Brown had pressured her to “slow down” the bill.
“No he didn’t,” said Ayotte in response to Grimm’s question according to a full transcript. “I told him what my position is, but I wasn’t lobbied on it or anything and obviously I did what I thought was best based on my state and voted the way I thought I should.”
Despite Ayotte’s clear statements, Grim wrote an utterly dishonest post with the blaring headline “New Hampshire Republican throws Scott Brown under the bus.” The story alleged that Brown had called Ayotte to lobby her on the bill even though she clearly said, “I wasn’t lobbied on it or anything.” Grim deliberately and maliciously edited Senator Ayotte’s quotes to fit the phony, preconceived narrative that he wanted to push.
After the recording of the full conversation was circulated to New Hampshire media tocorrect the record, the Huffington Post’s phony interpretation was mocked and criticized.
WMUR-TV said that the “audio of the interview provides a different context and premise — and maybe not even a story.”
“The story’s first paragraph went on to explain that Brown, a U.S. Senate candidate, had called Ayotte to lobby her to vote a certain way,” reported WMUR. “But the audio version of the interview, which to Huffington Post’s credit eventually was posted with the story, had Ayotte directly saying that Brown didn’t lobby her.”
New Hampshire Journal noted “The Huffington Post later changed the headline after an audio of Ayotte’s interview with its reporter was circulated widely to the media. The lead to the story, which had said that Brown called Ayotte to lobby her against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s energy efficiency bill, was also watered down in a later version.”
An unbiased reporter would have never published this story given the clear comments that Senator Ayotte made in the interview. The mistakes made in the post are too serious and egregious to be considered a simple error, which leads to the obvious conclusion that this was a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation. A legitimate news organization would have already disciplined the author and retracted this false story. But the Huffington Post’s lack of action confirms that it is more interested in dishonest political advocacy than actual journalism.
Left wing blogs like Huffington Post have a right to carry water for liberal politicians like Jeanne Shaheen, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama. They are free to peddle mistruths and falsehood that damage their credibility if they chose. But they shouldn’t be viewed as serious or trusted news institutions that provide unbiased coverage.
Given this unfortunate incident and the Huffington Post’s obvious lack of integrity, the New Hampshire Republican State Committee will no longer participate in its stories or respond to inquiries from its writers.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.