Chuck Todd Scolds Single-Source Kennedy’s Out Reporting

Of the reporting, which began late yesterday (first from the New York Post and New York Times), that Caroline Kennedy had removed herself from consideration for Hillary Clinton’s now-vacant Senate seat, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd this morning offered this criticism:

The AP at about 11:00pm first went with she’s getting out, ended up coming back and reporting, she’s getting in

I’ll just say this, you know, last night, the most frustrating part of this, watching it, was how many of our media friends were doing this based on one source, you know. The fight for two sources, I think, is what at least got us, I think, having the story correctly. I’m not trying to pull a muscle patting ourselves, but the drive for two sources shouldn’t be such a bad thing in American journalism.

ANDREA MITCHELL: How old fashioned of you.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: The first thing we noticed was that, we were like, is there any other source? There was one source for a long time. We ought to think about that.

TODD: There’s no reason…you can sometimes wait a couple hours to get it right.

(Or, news organizations can continue to rush their reporting of ClintonSenateSeatStakes. And continue to to publish embarrassing corrections.)

But whose back is Todd “not trying to pull a muscle patting?” Because MSNBC did report the single-sourced Kennedy’s out news last night, with this handy disclaimer:

KEITH OLBERMANN: The New York Times is reporting that [Hillary Clinton’s] replacement will not be Caroline Kennedy, the paper saying Mrs. Kennedy called Governor Paterson to ask that her name be withdrawn from consideration. That is a one source story and has not yet been confirmed.

Given the Times’ track record on Caroline-for-Senate reporting, perhaps MSNBC should have done their own reporting before going on-air with anything.

MSNBC also later last night reported the wait, she’s still in stuff for which Todd, in his above criticism, singled out just the AP:

KEITH OLBERMANN: Breaking news at this hour and it concerns the New York Senate seat. A Kennedy family source is telling David Gregory that Caroline Kennedy has not withdrawn her name from consideration. Two sources have now hinted to NBC News there is some indication there may have been a miscommunication between Kennedy and Governor David Paterson’s office and the initial reports of her withdrawing are simply incorrect. To repeat, a Kennedy family source telling David Gregory Caroline Kennedy has not withdrawn…

When Gregory phoned in to Rachel Maddow’s show a bit later to report the she’s still in news, he admitted that “the facts of it aren’t entirely solid” and “we’re in a fairly murky situation at the moment.” Why go on-air with something not “entirely solid,” something “fairly murky?” What of Todd’s “you can sometimes wait a couple hours to get it right?”

UPDATE: An illustration of the trouble with reporting something based solely on a tip from “a person close to” the person in question.

The Associated Press, at 10:22pm (SHE’S OUT!):

A person close to Caroline Kennedy’s decision said she’s withdrawing from her effort to join the U.S. Senate in the seat once held by her slain uncle, Sen. Bobby Kennedy. The person close to the decision made Wednesday evening spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak for Kennedy. Spokesmen for New York Gov. David Paterson and Kennedy have refused to comment.

And the AP an hour or so later (SHE’S IN! Or:”Person close to Kennedy decision: She’s in race” ):

After wavering briefly, Caroline Kennedy renewed her determination Wednesday to win appointment to the U.S. Senate seat once held by her slain uncle, Bobby Kennedy, a person close to the decision said.

After her surviving uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, suffered a seizure on Inauguration Day, Caroline Kennedy had misgivings about taking on the new job, the person said, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak for Kennedy.

And, most recently from the AP (OUT! And allow a “person close to” to tell us why):

A person who worked closely with Caroline Kennedy on her bid for the Senate says a pressing personal matter unrelated to her uncle’s health prompted her to tell the governor she was withdrawing from consideration.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.