Anatomy of a Smear: Left-Media’s Too-Good-to-Be-True Rand Paul Scoop Debunked… by the Original Source
Earlier this week, Left-Wing Gentlemen’s Quarterly (aka GQ) landed a big scoop that was destined to alter the shape of the 2010 elections, if not American politics as we know it: an anonymous source said Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul kidnapped a woman while attending Baylor university and forced her to take illegal drugs. From the article published August 9th at 10:55am:
According to this woman, who requested anonymity because of her current job as a clinical psychologist, “He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door, and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits. They’d been smoking pot.” After the woman refused to smoke with them, Paul and his friend put her back in their car and drove to the countryside outside of Waco, where they stopped near a creek. “They told me their god was ‘Aqua Buddha’ and that I needed to bow down and worship him,” the woman recalls. “They blindfolded me and made me bow down to ‘Aqua Buddha’ in the creek. I had to say, ‘I worship you Aqua Buddha, I worship you.’ At Baylor, there were people actively going around trying to save you and we had to go to chapel, so worshiping idols was a big no-no.”
The gossip had been online just an hour and a half before Politico JournoListo Ben Smith reported it to his ample audience at 12:28pm. Key quote:
This allegation from Jason Zengerle’s GQ profile of Rand Paul is a bit too big a deal to be left in its ether of anonymity and non-denial.
Yes, Rand Paul hadn’t publicly denied the allegations within 93 minutes of their publication, so it was time for Smith to play them up! Mind you, this same Ben Smith won’t mention an on-the-record whistle-blower charging the DOJ with discrimination, but a decades-old off-the-record charge against a Tea Party Republican is worthy of his investigative journalism and online real estate. In Smith’s defense, the mistake might be due to the fact that he no longer has his fellow JournoListas to bounce stories off of before taking the plunge.
So the meme spread. And lo and behold, Rand Paul decides it’s worth publicly denying the charges against him. In fact, he went on the offensive and threatened to sue GQ for reporting false allegations. Paul went on record to Fox News and stated, “No, I never was involved with kidnapping. No, I never was involved with forcibly drugging people.” Paul’s spokesman, Jesse Benton, referred to the GQ piece as “a libel story” and said that they are considering pressing charges.
Not yet aware of Paul’s unequivocal denial, GQ doubled down:
We’ve vetted, researched, and exhaustively fact-checked Jason Zengerle’s reporting on Rand Paul’s college days,” GQ editor Jim Nelson said in a statement. “We stand by the story, and we gave the Paul campaign every opportunity to refute it. We notice that they have not, in fact, refuted it.”
Well, now they have. But the journalism malpractice on the part of GQ and others who rushed to spread the meme like Politico’s Smith is fully exposed when the magazine’s anonymous source came out of hiding and dropped this bomb to left-wing blogger Greg Sargent at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog:
The woman — who was made available to me for an interview by GQ reporter Jason Zengerle in response to the Paul campaign’s denunciations of his article — said she didn’t mean to imply that she was kidnapped “in a legal sense.”
“The whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” she told me. “They didn’t force me, they didn’t make me. They were creating this drama: `We’re messing with you.’”
The woman said that much of the subsequent coverage of her allegations missed a key nuance: As a participant in a college ritual, where lines between acquiescence and victimization are often blurry, she was largely playing along with the notion that she was being forced to follow Paul’s orders.
“I went along because they were my friends,” she said. “There was an implicit degree of cooperation in the whole thing…
Hoisted with your own petard! To GQ, this anonymous woman said the GOP Senate candidate kidnapped her and tried to force her to take illegal drugs, but when she witnessed a man’s character being publicly assassinated by an adversarial media, her tune changed.
And now you understand the anatomy of a smear. Partisan press wildly exaggerates a story based on flimsy evidence, the story is granted credence by allegedly objective media outlets, and a candidate is toxified. They are at war, and this is how they fight.