According to Time, the Politico columnist — Peter Schweizer, who used to work for Sarah Palin — simply checked White House visitor logs and the president’s publicly released schedules, not knowing that Cabinet members who routinely see the president are not typically signed in at the White House security gate, nor are their meetings necessarily entered in the president’s officially released calendar. Secretary Sebelius has met with the president “dozens” of times in just the last year, a Sebelius spokesperson told Time.
Based on my own reporting, I think Time’s version of the Obama-Sebelius encounters is true. But that doesn’t matter. Either way, that’s not the end of the issue for Politico (which subsequently did post the White House’s strong denial of the story on its news pages).
The question media reporters should be asking Politico is why Schweizer didn’t go to the White House spokespeople for comment — and report their adamant denial — before publishing his story. It would seem that Politico’s only argument would be that Schweizer is a “columnist” and that he writes an opinion column. But here his opinion was based on a fact that he supposedly uncovered after laborious legwork, which he then used to lay out his larger theme — an indictment of Obama’s “loner style.”
So, is Politico’s standard for “columns” in its new magazine really to “write first, ask later”?
If the Washington Post had published a column like this, Politico’s terrific media reporter, Dylan Byers, would have been all over it. It will be interesting to see if he tackles something this close to home.