Political Animal


October 03, 2011 3:55 PM The Pelosi quote that wasn’t

By Steve Benen

The Republican National Committee was delighted today to trumpet a quote from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about the Obama White House. “‘I think you need to talk about how poorly they do on message,” she was quoted as saying about the president and his team. “They can’t see around corners; they anticipate nothing.”

I was curious about the context, so I went to the Newsweek/Daily Beast article that featured the quote. It wasn’t there. As it turns out, there’s a good reason for that.

Just one problem: She never said it, according to both her office and sources at Newsweek.

Newsweek has retracted the quote, and put an editor’s note on the piece: “Editor’s Note; An earlier version of this story included a comment erroneously attributed to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, criticizing the White House’s efforts at political messaging. Newsweek and The Daily Beast regret the error.”

Occasionally, an official will tell a reporter something off the record or on background, with the expectation that it won’t be aired or published. When the reporter forgets and runs the quote anyway, an angry phone call soon follows, leading to a correction or retraction.

So, is this one of those cases? Did Pelosi say this to Howard Kurtz quietly, and get burned when he published it? Pelosi’s office insists that’s not the case.

“Leader Pelosi spoke with Newsweek twice, and in both conversations she spoke positively of the White House’s messaging efforts,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told TPM. “Leader Pelosi nor anyone on her staff said the words attributed to Leader Pelosi either on background or off-the-record.”

“Our understanding is that this was an internal Newsweek miscommunication,” he added.

If so, that’s a pretty big screw-up.

Kurtz is the same veteran reporter who, by the way, ran quotes attributed to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), though he’s been talking to an Issa aide.

In any case, if you see the quote working its way around, it appears the criticism is bogus. Whether the apparently made-up quote has merit, meanwhile, is another question entirely.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 03, 2011 4:04 PM:

    Soon to be distributed in a million emails and repeated on Faux until it becomes "FACT".
    Truthiness in it's purest form factor.

  • rrk1 on October 03, 2011 4:05 PM:

    She should have said it because it's true. Whoever did say it is right on message.

    Captcha's meds need adjusting.

  • Ron Byers on October 03, 2011 4:23 PM:

    Is this the same Howard Kurtz who hosts Reliable Sources? If so, how ironic, since his sources don't seem all that reliable.

    This is the second time he has made such a mistake? If I didn't know any better I would say they are down right unreliable.

    I wonder who on CNN is going to mention this screw up?

  • jjm on October 03, 2011 5:10 PM:

    One of those mistakes that just happen to 'muddy the waters' -- and will linger for eons. On purpose???

  • exlibra on October 03, 2011 6:24 PM:

    “Our understanding is that this was an internal Newsweek miscommunication,” he [Pelosi spokesman, Drew Hammill] added.

    That's as gentle description of what had happened as I've ever seen; Pelosi's office at its most ladylike :)

    Good, old, reliable Howie; Kurtz on accuracy, but Lang on lies. One wonders how long Newsweek is going to put up with such "internal miscommunications". I remember the fanfare with which the NYTimes signed up Kristol to be their columnists. But, what with having to post a correction and a mea culpa following almost every column, somehow his contract never got renewed.

    Kurtz should post his own, very loud mea culpa, suggests Craptcha, in its own inimitable style: "Volume ffespi"

  • Darsan54 on October 04, 2011 2:17 AM:

    As a reporter on a weekly rural newspaper, I had to back down from a quote I had heard made public, but no one else could remember. If I had made up a quote, and it was proven, I would have been fired. How is it people like Kurtz can do such a piss poor job and keep their lucrative positions? Do they wonder why they are losing readers?

  • Cha on October 04, 2011 3:08 AM:

    @ rrk1 on October 03, 2011 4:05 PM:

    "She should have said it because it's true. Whoever did say it is right on message."

    No, it's not true at all. The White House is right on Message because it's based on Fact.

    It's a damn lie made up the unreliable sources. Howie is a tragic joke, anyway..and so is the damn "media"