February 25, 2009

AP’s Loven Describes Obama Speech — 5-1/2 Hours Before It Began (See UPDATE on Cantor’s Statement)

APabsolutelyPathetic0109Who knew that the Associated Press’s Jennifer Loven has the ability to see into the future?

That must be the case, because yesterday she told us what had happened at Barack Obama’s sort-of State of the Union speech — 5-1/2 hours before Obama uttered a word.

As fellow NewsBuster Noel Sheppard is given to say, “I kid you not.”

Loven’s AP story carried at Breitbart (HT to Abe Greenwald a Commentary’s Contentions blog via Instapundit) has a 3:30 p.m. Eastern time stamp:

APlovenObamaPrespeechHeadline022409

Obama’s speech was scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m.

Loven’s before-the-speech as if after-the-fact review provides plenty of comic relief. Though she would be expected to have been given a pre-release copy of the speech, her use of the past tense gives readers the impression that the speech had already taken place. She even criticized Republicans for allegedly doing exactly what she was doing — but they weren’t (bolds are mine):

Standing before a nation on an economic precipice, President Barack Obama aimed to balance candor with can-do Tuesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress. Millions more anxious Americans were tuning in on TV.

Obama was arguing that his still-unfolding economic revival plan has room for—even demands—a broader agenda including dramatic increases in health care coverage and wiser, “greener” fuel use. He was addressing an ebullient Democratic congressional majority and an embattled but reinvigorated GOP minority as well as worried viewers at home.

Just five weeks after his inauguration, Obama wasn’t charged with producing a formal State of the Union status report. But for all intents and purposes, that’s what it was: a night for the president to sketch out his priorities in a setting unmatched the rest of the year.

….. Comments on Obama’s address came in early from Republicans, many hours before he had uttered a word. (see UPDATE below — Ed.)

“House Republicans stand united in willingness to work with this president to try and tackle the very tough economic situation that is facing our families, to try and make some of the tough decisions together,” said House GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia. But Republicans would stick to their principles, he said: “One is that Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have. And two, we shouldn’t be raising taxes on businesses and families that can’t afford to pay them.”

Hey Jen, at least the Republicans were more than likely responding to the pre-release copy of the speech, and (see UPDATE below) not pretending to know how the oratory was delivered.

Apparently, the AP has no embarrassment threshold. A later version of Loven’s report at 4:11 Mountain time (6:11 Eastern, still almost three hours before the speech) at Salt Lake’s Deseret News quotes the President as having “said” things before he even spoke:

APlovenObamaPrespeechQuotes022409

Commenter “chuck martel” at Greenwald’s post was duly “impressed“:

Wow! That’s amazing! Jennifer Loven, who’s going to win the Kentucky Derby? And the World Series? What am I going to get for my birthday? Is my daughter’s baby going to be a girl or a boy? There’s so many questions I want to ask you!

Here’s a more pertinent futuristic question: Can anyone foresee a more glaring example of in-the-tank reporting than the Loven has just displayed?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

________________________________________________

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Loven’s contention that Eric Cantor’s comments were “on” (i.e., directly related to) Obama’s address are false, and I believe she could have and should have known that when she wrote her report.

I have spoken with and received an e-mail from a person in a position to know. This person was forwarded Cantor’s e-mail containing a 1:35 p.m. time stamp. Its text reads as follows (web link lacking a time stamp is here; graphic below is from the e-mail forwarded to me to show the time the e-mail was originally sent from Cantor’s office):

CantorEmailAheadOfObamaSpeech022409

Cantor Remarks on the President’s Speech Tonight

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) made the following remarks at the House Republican Leadership stakeout prior to President Obama’s speech to the nation tonight:

“Later tonight, we are going to have the opportunity to hear the President give his state of the nation address.  I believe that House Republicans stand united in willingness to work with this President to try and tackle the very tough economic situation that is facing our families, to try and make some of the tough decisions together.

“But there are some principles by which we’re going to operate in proffering our ideas to the President and frankly to our Congressional colleagues on the other side of the aisle. One is that Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have. And two, we shouldn’t be raising taxes on businesses and families that can’t afford to pay them. What we have to do is to make sure that we are striving for restoring the financial security that people want and deserve, as well as the job security that they need.

“These are the principles, I believe, by which you will see the Republicans in the House come forward with a plan to try and address the economic woes facing families and try to right the ship of government as we continue to see the funding pretty much unlimited for just about everything that comes down the pike. We have got to change course. We have got to become smarter and simpler in terms of the type of solutions coming out of Washington. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.”

Cantor’s title is less than perfect, and would have been clearer had it contained “upcoming” or some kind of future indicator. Nevertheless, nothing in Cantor’s text indicates that he had an advance copy of the speech.

Because he didn’t.

The person in a position to know I referred to above told me that Republicans got no information about the speech from the Obama administration until over 2 hours after Loven’s report,  as follows:

  • Shortly after 6:00 p.m. — GOP conference received excerpts from the White House Press Secretary, and a list of guests who would be in the First Lady’s box.
  • Roughly 7:45 p.m. — GOP conference received additional excerpts.
  • Shortly after 8:30 p.m. — GOP conference received full text as prepared for delivery.

I’m not in a position to say whether this timing reflects typical protocol for speech releases by the White House to the opposition party. But I can say that Jennifer Loven gave readers the impression that Cantor was reacting to the speech itself when she characterized the congressman’s statement as “Comments on Obama’s address.” The fact is, he in no way could have been commenting on the speech itself. It seems reasonable to believe that Loven, whose position as President of the White House Correspondents Association should make her one of the most in-the-loop reporters on matters such as these, knew that, or should have known that, when she wrote it. If she had any doubt about the basis for Cantor’s remarks, she should have contacted Cantor or one of his advisers.

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