Updated: 3:46 p.m. ET
Conservatives are piling on what they call a “hit piece” by the Washington Post on Mitt Romney’s prep school days, accusing the paper of inaccurate reporting.
The Breitbart site Big Journalism Friday morning called attention to an updated online version of the story . The Post rolled out the piece online Thursday morning but held it from the print edition until Friday to avoid juxtaposing it with President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage.
The story focuses on John Lauber, a boy Romney reportedly suspected was gay and whose hair the likely Republican presidential nominee allegedly took to with a pair of scissors.
As Big Journalism points out, The Post reported that Romney’s friend Stu White had “long been bothered” by the prank. But White told ABC News on Thursday that he never witnessed the impromptu and unwelcome haircut. The Post updated its story.
The original copy, according to Poynter:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and has long been bothered by the Lauber incident. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
And the update:
“I always enjoyed his pranks,” said Stu White, a popular friend of Romney’s who went on to a career as a public school teacher and said he has been “disturbed” by the Lauber incident since hearing about it several weeks ago, before being contacted by The Washington Post. “But I was not the brunt of any of his pranks.”
Fox News quickly followed Big Journalism’s criticism, calling it the “biggest media controversy” of the 2012 election. Host Megyn Kelly brought in Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt to discuss the story. “The Washington Post seems to not understand the Internet,” he said on-air. Kelly asked if anyone would want their high-school behavior judged decades later. “Lord no,” Stirewalt responded. So, they agreed, if Romney’s past is fair game, why haven’t Obama’s school days been scrutinized?
The Post hasn’t issued a correction, saying there is no need. But the paper’s communications director Kris Coratti told TPM that an editor’s note will be added to explain the update. “We should have been clearer about it,” she said in an email. “The phrase ‘long been bothered’ was the only thing that changed yesterday.” The updated language ran in the paper’s print edition Friday morning.
The Post reporter, Jason Horowitz, told GQ that the story originated as a look into Mitt Romney’s prep school days — the bullying stories simply came out of that reporting. He also firmly denied that the story originated as opposition research from a rival campaign. “This is an entirely independently reported story, with no help from any politically affiliated partisan side. This was all just talking to people who went to school with him.”
Late Update: The Post’s Kris Coratti sends this statement to TPM: “We’ve reviewed all of our reporting and we stand by our story.”
Watch the Fox segment below:
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com