Today we bring you an unusual weekend edition of Incest Desk. Late yesterday we printed a story (“Politico Playbook Plays Hide the Weiner”) detailing the Weiner scarcity in Politico Playbook for the past week. Its author, Mike Allen, published two innocuous items on the scandal on two days when nothing big was happening. On the rest, he wrote zippo. We asked two questions by email: 1) Why did he ignore the story? 2) Did anyone ask that he not cover the story or lie low on it this week? He answered neither. Not yesterday around dinnertime when we asked as lightening struck outside, not last night and not today.
Our item did not require a response from Allen. It’s a professional courtesy to seek comment and that we did. We had ample evidence that he chose to ignore the story all week long. But we’ll let you in “behind the curtain” as well, as Allen dubbed his defensive item in today’s Playbook. Allen is among the most with-it reporters in Washington. Had he wanted to respond, he would have as he usually does, within mere minutes. He chose not to.
But today Allen fired back at FishbowlDC from his Playbook perch, saying that he had showed “restraint” by not covering the Weiner story and had we had bothered to wait for his response that we “young journalists” might have “learned something.” He said he was traveling with Sec. Robert Gates in Afghanistan and felt that was “a more respectful use” of his readers’ time.” He said readers were not “underserved” by his lack of coverage and had flooded his inbox with gratitude.
Peculiar though, is the fact that Allen has amply covered, prominently displayed and even broken news on other political scandals — try Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), and Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) to cite three relatively recent examples.
But Allen is onto something. We did learn “something” from him today. 1. When Allen doesn’t want to answer questions, he doesn’t. We still don’t know if anyone asked him to not cover the scandal. 2. Getting praise from an ex-Obama official is worth not covering a story.
Allen reasoned that he showed “restraint” by not covering the biggest story of the week. The sentiment is understood, but restraint is one thing, falling into a coma is another. Allen said an ex-Obama official at V.P. Biden’s BBQ that he attended yesterday could “vouch” for him and was impressed by his restraint and judgment in not covering the story. This gives Allen major gold stars on the Incest Desk because what journalist doesn’t strive to impress Obama officials — ex or otherwise?
Last night, police visited the home of a 17-year-old girl who had exchanged messages with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). As we speak, news is breaking that Democratic House leaders are calling for the congressman to resign. Is it still a non-story in Playbook’s book?
Memo to seasoned journalists: If the goal of a seasoned journalist these days is to seek the praise of government officials then better not to be one. And a note to Allen: Anytime you’d like to answer our questions, our site is open to you. Enjoy the weekend.