Drudge Report deceptively advanced accusation that Biden wrongly "credit[ed] stimulus for fire station"
Research ››› ››› TOM ALLISON
The Drudge Report linked to an article with the headline "Biden credits stimulus for fire station -- funded under Bush." But after facts emerged that undermined that claim, the Drudge Report removed any reference to the article and did not subsequently link to an updated version of the article or in any other way note the evidence undermining the accusation against Biden that it had forwarded.
On April 2, the Drudge Report linked to a McClatchy Newspapers article about Vice President Joe Biden's April 1 event in Pikeville, North Carolina, with the headline: "Biden credits stimulus for fire station -- funded under Bush..." The McClatchy article was a shortened version of an article by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of McClatchy, that quoted Republican state Sen. David Rouzer's assertion that Biden was being "disingenuous" for crediting federal stimulus money for investment in the fire house and also quoted Rouzer saying, "They're coming in and cherry picking the best projects and switching out the money, saying it's stimulus money. ... But it was already approved and in the pipeline." However, at 6:04 p.m. ET on April 2, The News & Observer updated the article to note that officials at the Department of Agriculture "disputed" Rouzer's account, providing as evidence a copy of the fire department's application for government funds, and also reported that the president of the local fire department said the department "did not officially apply for the money until March 5" -- after the stimulus bill became law on February 17. McClatchy similarly updated its version of the article. The Drudge Report, however, which had between 7:19 a.m. ET and 5:50 p.m. ET featured the headline asserting that Biden had wrongly "credit[ed] stimulus for fire station," promptly removed any reference to the McClatchy article at 6:04 p.m. ET. The Drudge Report did not subsequently link to the updated News & Observer or McClatchy articles or in any other way note the evidence undermining the claim that Biden had wrongly credited the stimulus bill with funding the fire station.
Additionally, at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET on the April 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report -- about 25 minutes after The News & Observer had updated its article -- host Bret Baier repeated Rouzer's claim that Biden was being "disingenuous" for crediting the stimulus bill for funding the fire house, without noting the Department of Agriculture's response or the local fire chief's statement.
From the "update" to The News & Observer article, which, according to The News & Observer website, was "Modified Thu, Apr. 02, 2009 06:04PM":
Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday disputed statements by officials from a volunteer fire department in North Carolina and a state senator about when the fire department's recently announced loan and grants for a new fire station were approved.
Leaders of the Pikeville Pleasant Grove Volunteer Fire Department and N.C. Sen. David Rouzer, a Republican, said Wednesday that the department had requested the $1 million loan and at least some of the $150,000 in grants last year and was working through the application process with the Bush administration.
The fire department's president, Russell Robertson, said he was told the loan was approved in December. Contract bids for the new station were put out in January, he said. Rouzer, who worked for the Agriculture Department in the Bush administration, accused the Obama administration of being disingenuous because Vice President Joe Biden, who visited the fire department Wednesday, announced that the fire department was receiving stimulus money through the Obama administration.
Robertson reiterated his December time frame Thursday morning. But after speaking with USDA officials, Robertson said later in the day that he had misunderstood the process. He said the fire department did not officially apply for the money until March 5. USDA provided a copy of the application with that date.
McClatchy's version of the article was similarly updated to include the Department of Agriculture's response to Rouzer's claim:
State Sen. David Rouzer, a Republican who represents Pikeville and worked in the Agriculture Department under President Bush, said he helped secure the fire department money last year out of the federal agency's regular programs.
"They're coming in and cherry picking the best projects and switching out the money, saying it's stimulus money," Rouzer said. "But it was already approved and in the pipeline. It's totally disingenuous to come down here and say this is stimulus money, when regardless of whether a stimulus bill passed, they were getting the money."
Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday disputed that version of events. They provided a copy of the application with a March 5 date showing that that's when the department applied for the money. The president of the local volunteer fire department, after speaking with officials, later said USDA may be correct.
The Drudge Report featured the headline and link to the McClatchy article until at least 5:50 p.m. ET on April 2:
The Drudge Report no longer featured the headline and link to the McClatchy article at 6:04 p.m. ET on April 2:
The accompanying photo of Biden was left on the website until at least 6:22 p.m. ET.
From the April 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
BAIER: Well, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pikeville, North Carolina, Wednesday with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce a new wave of federal stimulus funds for essential services in rural communities. Biden used the town's outdated fire station as a backdrop, saying, quote, "We're investing in places like this all across the country to demonstrate the vital role towns like this play in the recovery."
Pikeville is getting money for a new station, but Republican state Senator David Rouzer says it's not from the stimulus. It's actually from money approved by the Bush administration. Rouzer told McClatchy Newspapers, quote, "They're coming in and cherry-picking the best projects and switching out the money, saying it's stimulus money. But it was already approved and in the pipeline. It's totally disingenuous to come here and say this is stimulus money, when regardless of whether a stimulus bill passed, they were getting the money."