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A new low for the Washington Post

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Well, that didn't take long.

You may recall that the Washington Post recently hired embattled Associated Press reporter John Solomon. Solomon was facing increasing scrutiny, and criticism, for his odd brand of "I gotcha" journalism while working at the Associated Press. Solomon's stories, far too often, would report benign facts as earth-shattering revelations - and he got caught, repeatedly, and publicly.

It now seems that Mr. Solomon's penchant for hyperbole is alive and well at the Washington Post. In a front page story Friday, Solomon reported on what he, and his editors at the Post, apparently considered a very important story (or it wouldn't have made page one). Namely, that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards sold his home to some guy who the Washington Post didn't like.

Yes. You heard correctly. The Washington Post has established a new standard in Washington where you can only sell your home to really really really nice people. That was the gist of the Washington Post's front page extravaganza.

Which begs the question of who John Solomon, and his editors at the Post, and all of his fellow colleagues at the Post, have sold their homes to in the past? Did they do extensive background checks on the personal ethics and likability of the individuals buying their homes? Doubtful.

The Washington Post published a front-page story about nothing. But by making it a front-page story, the Post gave the appearance that this story was absolutely about something, and in the process, they smeared John Edwards all the same.

But this is hardly new for Solomon. In the Post story about Edwards, Solomon used one of his tricks he also used at the AP when sliming Democratic politicians. He cited something correct, and innocuous, that the politician did or said, and then somehow implied that this was evil.

Case in point. The first two paragraphs of the Post story:

When former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards finally succeeded last month in selling his imposing Georgetown mansion for $5.2 million after it had languished on the market, the names of the buyers were not publicly disclosed.

At the time, Edwards's spokeswoman told reporters that the house had been sold to an unidentified corporation. In reality, the buyers were Paul and Terry Klaassen, according to several sources and confirmed by Edwards's spokeswoman yesterday.
Wow, so John Edwards' spokeswoman lied when she said the home was bought by a corporation?! That's really bad, and it does suggest that she just might be hiding something, if she had to lie.

But then you read, in paragraph 9, something that totally exonerates the spokeswoman (this is a classic Solomon trick again - use the lead of your story to make the person sound sinister, then bury the exonerating truth way down in the story):
The paperwork for the sale was handled in such a way that it kept the Klaassens' names off the public deed documents, which show that the buyer was P Street LLC. That limited-liability corporation was created Dec. 22, public records show. Palmieri said the Klaassens used it to purchase the house.
So in fact, Edwards's spokeswoman told the truth. The home was bought by a corporation. But by reading Solomon's lead, you'd be led to believe, incorrectly, that Edwards' spokeswoman lied when saying that the home was bought by a corporation. Get it?

There is a pattern here. It's not just a sloppy lead, it's what Solomon did in far too many of his stories at the Associated Press - and that repitition suggests not error, but intent. The lead implies the politician is guilty, and then buried in the story you find out that the politician isn't guilty at all and that the "facts" as implied in the lead simply aren't true. Solomon played this game at his former job - why DID he leave the AP anyway? - and he's repeating his old tricks now at the Post.

It's fortunate that it took Solomon only a few months at the Post to expose what appears to be glaring partisan bias, incredibly sloppy journalism, or both. After the previous, and repeated, scandals about Solomon's writing, he left the Associated Press. It will be interesting to see how long the Washington Post tolerates a reporter in their midst who might prove a better fit at the Washington Times.

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