President Trump fired personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout for comments she made in an August 17 off-the-record conversation with reporters including Washington Post White House bureau chief Phil Rucker, Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg, Reuters’ Steve Holland and the Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Restuccia. Daniel Lippman has a good account here.
Rucker seems quite clearly to have burned Westerhout. Matthew Boyle observes at Breitbart: “Arthur Schwartz, a highly plugged-in GOP strategist, has tweeted that multiple reporters and White House officials have told him that Rucker–the Post’s White House bureau chief–is who shared the off-the-record information that Westerhout supposedly provided with someone else, before it then got back to the White House what Westerhout was allegedly doing[.]” Boyle notes at the top of his story that Rucker hasn’t denied the allegation that he did what Schwartz says he did.
Boyle quotes this statement from Post national editor Steven Ginsberg in an update: “Philip Rucker is one of the best and most scrupulous reporters in the news business. He has always acted with the utmost honor and integrity and has never violated Washington Post standards or policies.”
You don’t have to scrutinize Ginsberg’s statement too closely to determine that it doesn’t amount to a denial. Boyle accurately observes: “Ginsberg’s statement does not deny…that Rucker burned Westerhout’s off-the-record statement.” He adds: “A Post spokesperson has not replied to a follow-up email asking if the newspaper denies that.”
What we have here in any event is a story of the bigfoot media in the Age of Trump. E.E. Cummings asked in one of his poems: “how numb can an unworld get?” Answer: “number.” By the same token, we may ask how low the media can go. Answer: lower.