Before there was Dan Rather, there was the Associated Press. We reported here and in several follow-up posts on one of the biggest media scandals of this campaign. On Sept. 3, there was a Bush rally in West Allis, Wisconsin. President Bush announced to the crowd that he had just learned that former President Clinton had been hospitalized. There was a moment of near-silence in which a slight murmur of concern was audible. Then Bush said that his thoughts and prayers were with the Clinton family, and the crowd cheered and applauded loudly.
But that’s not what the AP reported. Under the by-line of reporter Tom Hays, the AP said: “Bush’s audience of thousands in West Allis, Wisconsin booed. Bush did nothing to stop them.” That was a lie, plain and simple. Audio and television tapes show that no one booed. No one.
From an informant who is a member of the White House press corps and was at the West Allis rally, we learned that the real author of the story was not Tom Hays, but another AP reporter named Scott Lindlaw. Lindlaw is a virulent Bush-hater; our informant has heard him say, “My mission is to see that Bush is not re-elected.” During Bush’s speech, Lindlaw had ear plugs in his ears to screen out crowd noise. After the speech, he was seen to approach an AP colleague to say, “I thought I heard boos. Did someone boo?” His colleague assured him that no one booed, but Lindlaw wrote the story anyway.
The AP issued a corrected version of the story on the rally that omitted the false claim about the booing, and Bush “doing nothing to stop it,” but hundreds of newspapers and television stations had already picked up the story. The AP has never made any explanation of what happened, nor, to our knowledge, has Lindlaw been disciplined in any way for deliberately filing a false news story.
Reader Patrick Hynes alerted us to this news story, “AP Reporter in ‘Clinton Booed’ Flap Stands by Claim”:
Tom Curley, AP president and CEO, was asked by Talon News to explain the circumstances surrounding the correction.
Curley said, “The reporter and a couple others standing with him thought they heard booing. After checking of tapes, they decided it was oohs, not boos.”
Curley also confirmed that Hays was not present at the Wisconsin rally, but was in New York at the time of the event. The reference to “booing” came from material provided by Lindlaw. Talon News confronted Lindlaw on Friday about the discrepancy in his reporting of the event.
When asked if he heard booing as he reported, he replied, “I did.”
Lindlaw declined to be interviewed but insisted that his reporting was accurate. Lindlaw said, “What I had to say I put in the wire.”
Lindlaw refused to answer any other questions about the report. Lindlaw provided no explanation for making a charge that would create a negative impression of President Bush and his supporters.
The suggestion that the reporter innocently mistook “ooohs” for “boos” is ridiculous. You can listen to the audio of the rally via a link from our original story, linked above. There is no noise that could remotely be construed as a boo.
The AP and Lindlaw should not be allowed to get away with this outrage. We have sent many emails to email@example.com asking for an explanation of this event; I’d encourage others to do so as well. I believe Mr. Lindlaw’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.