In his Washington Post article this morning on the “GOP talking points memo,” Mike Allen reports on the investigation undertaken by the office of Mel Martinez: “Martinez staff probes memo origin.” Allen writes that Martinez’s staff “is investigating whether an aide who resigned this week distributed a memo about the Terri Schiavo case to other Senate offices, and whether any other aides in the senator’s office had seen it.”
On the question whether the Martinez staff memo had been distributed to other Senate offices, Allen himself should have had the answer when he reported in his March 20 story that the memo was distributed “only to Republican senators.” Three weeks since he wrote that story, Allen himself apparently can’t identify one such Republican senator. Allen omits to mention that, as of today, the only senator reported to have received the memo from Martinez or his office is Democrat Tom Harkin.
In writing about the memo, we doubted its authenticity, we doubted its status as a “GOP talking points memo” distributed by party leaders, and we observed that no Republican senator had been identified as a recipient. In response to the questions we and others raised, Allen himself backtracked from the allegation that the memo represented Republican party leaders’ talking points: “We simply reported that the sheet of paper was distributed to Republican senators and told our readers explicitly that the document was unsigned, making clear it was unofficial,” according to Allen. We have established that Allen’s March 19 wire service story is inconsistent with that statement as well.
My suspicion that the memo itself was an inauthentic document has proved wrong; I made a mistake in concluding that it was. But the memo was not a “GOP talking points memo” prepared by party leaders or distributed only to Republican senators; it was not what Allen and others described it to be. The difference between what the memo is and what Allen (and others) reported it to be appears to be large and consequential. Who owes whom an apology?
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