It almost seems like it can't be possible, yet it is — there's another problem on Katie Couric's "Couric & Co." blog, and it's not minor. Last week, one of her producers was busted for plagiarizing a Wall Street Journal essay for one of her "Notebook" dispatches, where she prattled on gaily about her memories of her first library card. Er, oops. This time, CBS has egg on their face about another "Notebook" entry — one which resurrected the Barack Obama madrassa rumor, that had been thoroughly, totally debunked in January. It's April.
Here's what Katie blithely read into the camera (emphasis ours):
"Hi everyone. Is America ready to elect a president who grew up praying in a mosque? Barack Obama has arguably the most diverse religious background of any candidate, ever. He was raised in Indonesia by a Christian mother and Muslim stepfather, and attended a Catholic school, but while growing up, also studied Islam. That background sparked rumors that he had studied in a radical madrassa, or Koranic school - rumors his campaign denied, declaring that Obama is now a practicing Christian."
Oh, my Lord. Who are these people? What an inflammatory opening line — pulled from a LAT story citing the proffered memories of a childhood friend of Obama — which were subsequently undermined and contradicted by more thorough reporting by the Chicago Tribune. So that's the first thing. But the jaw-dropper is the resurrection of the madrassa rumor — and the assertion that it was "denied" and that Obama is "now" a Christian. People "deny" lots of things — cf. Bush White House — but that doesn't mean it's not true. In this case, the rumors were specifically false, meant to smear, and had been totally disproven by CNN. In January. This is April.
CBS corrected the print version on the site, which now reads like so:
"Hi, everyone. Is America ready to elect a President whose connections with Islam were the subject of rumor and innuendo? Barack Obama has arguably the most diverse religious background of any candidate, ever. He was raised in Indonesia by a Christian mother and Muslim stepfather, and attended a Catholic school, but while growing up, also studied Islam. That background sparked rumors that he had studied in a radical madrassa, or Koranic school - rumors later disproved. Obama is now a practicing Christian."
Honestly, does that first sentence even make sense? How about "Is America ready to elect a President who is the constant target of smear campaigns and misinformation blithely picked up by supposedly credible news organizations who should probably have been aware that all this was debunked months ago?"
This is the second high-profile gaffe that has happened under Couric's watch in as many weeks. It may have been the fault of an underling — and wow, they seem to have the pick of the litter over there, don't they? — but she read it into the camera (Media Matters has the video). She is supposed to be the MANAGING EDITOR. Anyone who has been following the news even perfunctorily over the past few months would see the madrassa story with a big red flag, and remember that other news orgs got in trouble for keeping it bouncing around after it had been disproven as a vicious rumor. In January.
This goes beyond elementary. She SAID the words, repeated the rumor, gave it credence looking straight into the camera as one of the nation's supposedly trusted network anchors. What kind of managing editor is this? And what kind of clause is in her contract for replacing her? Because man, is she starting to be a liability.
Couric's "Notebook" rehashed debunked Obama rumors [MediaMatters]
CNN debunks false report about Obama [CNN]
Katie Couric's Notebook: Obama's Background [CBS News]
Editor's Note: Oops, We Plagiarized! [CBS News]