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The Asher doctrine applied

Yesterday we highlighted the self-professed doctrine underlying McClatchy News investigative editor James Aher’s defense of McClatchy’s “Tea party protesters scream ‘nigger’ at black congressmen” story. Under the Asher doctrine, McClatchy got the story right despite the absence of any corroborating evidence under circumstances where such evidence must exist if the story is accurate: “I… can’t believe that anyone – congressman or garbageman – would make up this fact that one of the nastiest racist terms was hurled.”
Anyone familiar with the ways of Washington would find the Asher doctrine lacking. Asher’s faith is touching, but it is misplaced, and it is also unfair to garbagemen. There is no garbageman I would trust less than my own congressman. Nevertheless, one wonders about the contours of the Asher doctrine. Reader Richard Rodriguez comments:

Using Mr. Asher’s logic, Connecticut’s Blumenthal must have served in Vietnam, Clinton must not have had “sex with that woman,” and Mr. Madoff must have run an honest investment firm. This list could go on for pages and pages, but it’s late Friday, after a long week!

Over at NRO’s Corner, Michael Rubin was also inspired to apply the Asher doctrine. Rubin notes: “Simply put, while McClatchy’s motto is ‘Truth to Power,’ Asher relies on the assumption that congressmen always tell the truth. So, in the spirit of understanding what this means to McClatchy, a few other stories Asher can publish and upon which he can stake the reputation of McClatchy reporters.” Rubin offers these stories:

1. “Guam is sinking.” Rep. Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) said it, that’s good enough for me.
2. “Aliens visit earth, stalk Denis Kucinich.” After all, Rep. Denis Kucinich (D., Ohio) says it’s true.
3. “Robert Mugabe is blameless in Zimbabwe’s collapse.” Nothing to see here: Forget the famine, forget the thuggery, forget the hyperinflation. Mugabe was just righting wrongs. After all, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D., Ga.) said so.
4. “Television broadcasts began years earlier than we realized.” After all, Joe Biden said Franklin D. Roosevelt got on TV to explain the stock market crash in 1929, even though commercial broadcasts only began the next decade.

Rubin draws the conclusion that we left implicit in our own account: “In its efforts to put politics above the basic who, what, when, where, and why of journalism, McClatchy has become a joke, and a rather sad one at that.”

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