WaPo’s Wemple Wimps Out

Dear Readers,

At 1:46 p.m. Monday, WaPo‘s opinionated media writer Erik Wemple wrote to ask about the whole Friday flap with Wonkette Publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf. In case you missed the fiasco, on Friday she fabricated a story that I was going to be fired. Why? Because she – her words – wanted it to be true. Wemple wrote me by email, “Schoenkopf says you called her a liar over the Politico party thing without even checking first with Politico itself. Then, she says, you took their version of events at face value and smeared her. Any response?” A second later he wrote back: “And to tack on one other: Does FBDC have higher standards than Wonkette and if so, in what way?”

Before we examine Wemple’s questions, let’s give you proper context since he couldn’t be bothered. Schoenkopf is Wonkette‘s editor who admittedly hates my guts for this, this and this. All the stories were based on actual reporting and sources. One includes research and numbers regarding Wonkette‘s web traffic after we noticed Schoenkopf was on the record stating wildly different numbers to different reporters (a story we’d cover no matter who it was about). Another discusses a party at the GOP Convention in Tampa at which Schoenkopf, according to witnesses, got sauced at a Politico soirée and claimed to be tossed out of the party. The funniest part was her nonsensical writing. She herself admitted to FBDC that she was 7 out of 10 on the drunken scale. Based on witnesses, we’d put her at 11.

Wemple called the details of the original story and source of her hatred for FishbowlDC “irrelevant.” Yes, Erik, why let facts and reporting get in the way of your story? But don’t worry. You’re in the same boat as Schoenkopf in that she doesn’t have time for facts either. In fact, she’s allergic to them–I think they may give her hives. She thinks I’m “vile” and  a “c–t” – and, wow, she sounds just like Anthony Weiner‘s Communications Director Barbara Morgan.

So according to Wemple’s statements in his email to me, Schoenkopf says I called her a liar over the Politico party incident without checking with Politico first. Simultaneously, I fell for Politico‘s statements because we never write anything negative about Politico or question them about anything. So somewhere in the craziness of Schoenkopf’s mind I both did NOT check in with Politico and I ALSO believed them because I – what? – talked to them? Come on, Wemple, even you can see that that’s a whole pack of stupid in one sitting.

But no.

Wemple offered a woman who INVENTED an entire story simply because she wanted it to be true the opportunity to insult me and my colleagues for most of his post.  Normally a reporter at a news outlet would be fired for intentionally publishing a false story for malicious reasons. But instead of questioning Schoenkopf hard on her brand of fairytale journalism, Wemple went easy on her and reduced the incident to little more than a cat fight between two websites run by women.

As Wemple so brilliantly put it…“What a great outcome: One gossipy Web site accuses the other of poor editorial standards; the other accuses it of poor editorial standards,” he wrote.

Wonkette has not been accused of poor editorial standards — at least not by us. The undisputed fact is they ran an absolutely false story with knowledge that it was likely false and with no attempt to verify it.  Wemple gave her a pass and in his less-than-objective way, lumped FishbowlDC right alongside them for whatever reason only he knows.

He also let her call the rest of FishbowlDC, in this case, Justin McLachlan, “intellectually dishonest.” McLachlan wrote two pieces on Wonkette‘s conflicting traffic numbers—numbers Schoenkopf has admitted she let publicly stand despite knowing they were wrong because they made her and Wonkette look better. Wemple glossed right over her charge. What does Schoenkopf even mean by this? Who knows because Wemple’s claim that he’s a “reported” media blogger is just a description that sounds good — it’s just not always reality. Why not question Schoenkopf on facts? Why not dig and gain understanding of his own? We know it’s fashionable to attack FishbowlDC, but here’s a thought: How about doing your job? When McLachlan approached Schoenkopf for comment on the traffic stories (before they were published, imagine that), Schoenkopf told him to go f*ck himself. Wemple let her call him “intellectually dishonest,” but conveniently left out how she treated a reporter just trying to do his job.

Wemple does not see how his disdain for FishbowlDC just drips through his post, or the decisions he made while writing. Or how what he’s done—giving Schoenkopf a platform to spew hatred unchecked—is barely better than what she did in the first place. Question for you, Wemple: How many other people would you allow a source to say those kinds of things about without even the slightest bit of challenge?

Weak and wilting, Wemple saw his eye on the prize: a continued series or “pissing match” between me and Schoenkopf because isn’t envisioning two women pissing on each other really hot? At the end of his piece he said I was still working on my reply to him. But he apparently fell asleep at the wheel. I sent my “on the record” quote, which he used. I never said anything else would be coming. Much like Schoenkopf’s desire for me to be fired, Wemple’s wish was for me to keep bashing her to him over email. I don’t know Schoenkopf well enough to call her anything, but I certainly don’t want to emulate her journalism.

Erik, on Monday you blew it. But hey, it’s Tuesday. You have a chance to pull your head out of your ass the sand and do it all over again. Let’s hope you’ve learned something here.


FishbowlDC’s Betsy Rothstein and Justin McLachlan