Longform

IN THE NEWSROOM, POTS AND KETTLES

Page 3 of 3

The evidence cited was that a story written for the Post by Myra MacPherson concluded with a paragraph in which O'Neill told how John F. Kennedy teased him about once getting four more votes in a precinct than O'Neill did--and knowing which family was responsible for the difference.

Totenberg reportedly used the same paragraph, "virtually verbatim," as her lead paragraph.

For this, Totenberg is tarred by Hunt. He concludes:
"Purposeful plagiarism is one of the cardinal sins of journalism from which reporters can never recover their credibility: There is no statute of limitations on that judgment." This is nothing but a pile of sanctimonious claptrap. Hunt has been around enough politicians like Tip O'Neill to know that they all have a certain fund of anecdotes which they shamelessly use over and over in every interview.

The odds are that if O'Neill told that anecdote to the Washington Post reporter on a Monday he told it again on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the same week to every reporter he encountered.

Totenberg's answer was, "What I did or didn't do almost 20 years ago isn't the issue." It only became the issue to Hunt and others who were perhaps jealous of Totenberg's sudden ascent to celebrity.

One wonders if the fact that Totenberg was tapped by public television to cover the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas senatorial hearings had anything to do with Hunt's fit of pique at Totenberg.

Hunt himself is one of those Washington journalists who rushes forward to appear on news panel shows at every opportunity.

But there is one fascinating thing Hunt never mentioned while attacking Totenberg. The female reporter who normally gets such plum television assignments on public television is none other than Hunt's wife Judy Woodruff.

Should one detect a possible conflict of interest here?

Every time a hardworking reporter breaks a good story, someone else in the press corps will dig up something to discredit that reporter.

Alan Simpson's version is that Nina Totenberg said he was "evil" and that she used the "f word" toward him. How terrible.

Juan Williams, a black journalist, has been ordered to stop saying nice things about Clarence Thomas.

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Tom Fitzpatrick