Media Matters has already done the work of demolishing Frances Martel's train wreck article for Mediaite this weekend, in which she forwarded old, evidence-free rumors about an alleged affair between President Obama and a former staffer that the National Enquirer borrowed from unhinged conservative blogger Bob Owens.
As Eric Boehlert detailed, Martel's bosses Colby Hall and Dan Abrams have defended Martel's piece on the grounds that Drudge linked to the Enquirer story, which supposedly made it newsworthy. Martel originally wrote that the Drudge link gave the story "credibility," but that wording was later changed to "significance and impact." Writing in the comments section of Martel's post, Abrams wrote: "when Drudge links to a story suggesting the President of the United States might be having an affair, that is at least a -media- story for a media website."
But this defense misses the point entirely.
Martel's story for Mediaite was not a "media story." It was merely forwarding -- and embellishing -- baseless gossip from the Enquirer. An actual "media story" might have been along the lines of "Matt Drudge Has No Standards and Traffics in Baseless Smears." But that story has been written before (who can forget the "credibility" he gave to the "backwards B" hoax, for example.)
In fact, based on what Martel wrote and tweeted about the story, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Martel wasn't as interested in writing a "media story" as she was in promoting a potentially damaging political scandal.
Before posting the story on Mediaite, Martel linked to the Enquirer article with the headline "SCANDAL: Barack Obama Caught Cheating On Michelle!" at what appears to be her father's blog. Here's the post, in full:
The National Enquirer broke the news tonight that they have uncovered a secret affair between President Barack Obama and a "gorgeous" aide who he met while campaigning for the US Senate in 2004. And Michelle wants a divorce!:
A confidential investigation has learned that Obama first became close to gorgeous 35 year-old VERA BAKER in 2004 when she worked tirelessly to get him elected to the US Senate, raising millions in campaign contributions.
While Baker has insisted in the past that "nothing happened" between them, the ENQUIRER has learned that top anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know about the alleged hush-hush affair.
Read more about it at your #1 source for Democrats cheating on their spouses, The National Enquirer (via the #2 source for Democrats cheating on their spouses, the Drudge Report).
She treated the Enquirer story as entirely credible in this post, before bringing the allegations to Mediaite. And here she is on Twitter an hour after posting the Mediaite story:
That's some curious wording about the story being "really sad. Especially in a midterm year." If this were a "media story" as opposed to, say, a political hit piece, why is this "especially" sad for the Obama family in a "midterm year?"
Running damage control on Saturday, Martel wrote:
Unless they can pull out the kind of irrefutable evidence they found for the Edwards case, the Enquirer will return to their previous reputation as a salacious provider of specious rumor and innuendo, a stark difference from their recent placement alongside titles considered for a Pulitzer.
"Previous reputation"? The Enquirer did scoop the Edwards story, but getting one right amid countless flops doesn't change their "reputation as a salacious provider of specious rumor and innuendo." And Martel's concern for the Enquirer's supposed newfound credibility seems misplaced, seeing as the exact same charges of specious rumor-mongering she considers so damaging can now, as a consequence of her actions, be lobbed at Mediaite.
Martel also claimed that the "National Enquirer Obama sex scandal is unraveling rather quickly." However, as we detailed, the Enquirer's gossip had "unraveled" by the time she published her original story -- Martel just didn't bother doing the necessary research before publishing.
Keeping all of this in mind, I've got a few questions for Mediaite:
What is the editorial process like for pieces like Martel's? Did an editor review this and decide it was worth posting and splashing across the top of Mediaite's homepage?
A month ago she tweeted that she was the "night editor" at Mediaite. Does this mean Martel is trusted to post content without oversight?
There is certainly no shortage of websites that are eager to forward Drudge's baseless gossip. If, as Colby Hall and Dan Abrams suggest, Mediaite exists to write about "media" stories, they should probably get a better understanding of what media stories are.