Note to NYT public editor Clark Hoyt: Stop digging!

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

One thing I've been wondering as the ACORN pimp hoax has played out over the last week, is whose reputation would take a hit in light of the embarrassing revelation? I knew Andrew Breitbart's already-hollow credibility would suffer another blow, as we highlighted how he and his ACORN cohorts, as well as Fox News, knowingly pushed the phony tale about how James O'Keefe walked into the community organizing offices dressed like a ridiculous looking pimp. (The meme was crucial for the mocking angle to the ACORN undercover sting.)

I assumed that that story would ensnare some right-wing bloggers who would foolishly try to defend the ACORN hoax. And while it's true that Patterico stumbled in right on cue and did his usual blogosphere face-plant, by and large not even Breitbart's RW pals have tried to defend the ACORN pimp hoax. (A wise move, indeed.)

So imagine my surprise when it was New York Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, who strolled onto the scene and emerged as the other big loser from this story. Hoyt earns the embarrassing honors for the bungling way he's treated the attempt by blogger Brad Friedman to get the Times to acknowledge that it got duped by the ACORN pimp hoax, and to now set the record straight.

The first part was easy: Hoyt completely agrees there's no evidence to support the falsehood that O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp while he filmed inside ACORN offices. There's no proof even though the Times itself on several occasions made that exact claim. And Hoyt also confirmed that he would urge the newsroom to stop making false claim about the pimp story.

But as I noted earlier this week, Hoyt told Friedman a correction would not be forthcoming.

Huh?!

After Friedman published his extraordinarily detailed analysis of the pimp caper, as well as explained in detail why the Times really ought to post a correction, Hoyt emailed him again, with this gem, and dug the hole the little deeper [emphasis added]:

My position is that I would recommend a correction if one were warranted after The Times re-reported the question of O'Keefe's costume to determine the facts independently. Every person in this argument is pushing a political agenda, and The Times would need to find out for itself what actually happened at those Acorn offices. It is up to the paper to decide whether the investment of effort is worthwhile.

Got read the whole email, here. The condescending tone is quite remarkable. But note the highlighted section above: Hoyt claims that before making any formal correction, the Times would have to independently determine what happened inside the ACORN offices.

Makes sense, right? Well, except that, on multiple occasions the Times falsely reported O'Keefe was wearing his pimp get-up without first independently determining what happened inside the ACORN offices.

Do you see Hoyt's corkscrew logic? The Times got the pimp story wrong because it essentially followed the phony lead of Breitbart and crew. Now that's it's been proven to be false, the Times won't correct its inaccurate reporting until the Times, for the first time since the ACORN story broke, "find[s] out for itself what actually happened at those Acorn offices."

Um, wouldn't that have been a good idea before the Times starting making factual errors about the ACORN story?

I mean, give me a break.

And oh yeah, the Times would have to first "find out for itself what actually happened at those Acorn offices," before posting a correction. But by the way, the Times probably won't ever bother to find out what happened. So thanks for writing in and have a nice day.

This is really just amazing.

UPDATED: And yes, as I mentioned earlier this week, recall that this is same Clark Hoyt who devoted an entire column last year in order to scold the Times news team for not reacting fast enough to the all-important ACORN story. The failure was so severe that the Times assigned a staffer to monitor opinion media so the daily would never again be caught so flat footed when a hugely important story broke from the right-wing blogosphere.

But now, when we discover that ACORN story wasn't entirely what it appeared, Hoyt begs off.

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