The offending headline.

Today The Washington Post drops the baton in the apparently never-ending relay race to slap an Associated Press wire story onto a newspaper website as quickly as possible.

After John Kerry’s much-anticipated speech on foreign policy, the AP’s Nedra Pickler filed a dispatch in which she wrote, “The Bush campaign portrayed the speech as disingenuous political grandstanding.”

What Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt actually told Pickler was, “John Kerry’s approach to the war on terror has been filled with indecision and vacillation. He has consistently played politics with the war in Iraq.”

But when the Pickler story appeared on the Washington Post website, it carried this sub-headline: “Bush Asserts Kerry Is ‘Grandstanding’” (see graphic at right).

Nowhere in Pickler’s article is either the president or the president’s campaign spokesman actually quoted accusing Kerry of”grandstanding.” Rather, the word is Pickler’s characterization of the Bush campaign’s view of Kerry’s speech.

Those batons can get real slippery on the final hand-off.

T.L.

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.