Back in October, Washington Post reporters Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi wrote an article about shady lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Abramoff is finally facing legal action, and it looks like he will cut a deal which could finger many of his [mostly Republican] pals in Congress). At one point, they mention the relationship between Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay:
[Rep. Robert] Ney and Abramoff, whom DeLay once described as “one of my closest and dearest friends,” crossed paths as early as 1996.
Today, Schmidt and Grimaldi wrote another article about Ambramoff, with this passage to describe the Abramoff/DeLay relationship:
DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.
My first thought after reading all that was to look more closely at the first quote. It is worded badly, so that it’s hard to tell if the “dear close friend” is supposed to be Ney or Abramoff. And if you look at the context, most of that portion of the article is about Ney. So maybe there was no contradiction, maybe DeLay was talking about Ney, not Abramoff. So I dug around and tried to find the original DeLay quote. And sure enough:
“When one of my closest and dearest friends, Jack Abramoff, your most able representative in Washington, D.C., invited me to the islands, I wanted to see firsthand the free-market success and the progress and reform you have made.”
- Tom DeLay, New Year’s 1997/1998, Marianas Islands
So… what the hell? After two and a half months, two professional journalists write two sets of facts that totally contradict each other. Okay, we can nitpick: maybe DeLay was lying or exaggerating when he called Abramoff a friend. Or maybe the “associates of both men” were lying. But in each case, the reporters used the “facts” to try to make a point about the closeness (or distance) of the two men. Which means that the reporters are essentially changing their story, that the men aren’t good friends like they’d said before, just business associates. Why would they do such a thing?
I’ve got two theories.
1) The reporters made a legitimate mistake in their reporting in their first story, and are now reporting the truth (though, without printing a correction or retraction).
2) DeLay is trying to distance himself from Ambramoff in case he takes a fall, and the journalists are going along with this new spin.
My money’s on #2.
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