Slander on background

The White House tells another whopper: the Governor of Louisiana did indeed proclaim a state of emergecy a week ago Friday, before the storm hit.

Yesterday I linked to a Washington Post story that quoted a “senior Administration official” as saying that the Governor of Louisiana had yet to declare a state of emergency.

That was false. The proclamation was issued Friday, August 26. The WaPo has posted a correction.

1. The WaPo reporters, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Spencer Hsu, were grosly negligent in making such an explosive charge without verifying it.

2. It’s hard to believe that the official in question was acting in good faith. In any case, having slandered Gov. Blanco on background, he now ought to come forward and apologize.

3. The correction is inadequate. The attempt by the White House to pin blame on political opponents by making false statements to the press is a story in itself. By lying to the reporters, the “senior Administration official” forfeited the protection of “speaking on background.” Unless he can show he was making a good-faith mistake, the reporters should reveal his identity. In any case, they should demand that he comment on his earlier false statement.

4. The President should be asked, relentlessly: (A) why his staff is telling lies like this at a time like this; (B) when an apology to the Governor will be forthcoming; and (C) when the senior official is going to be fired.

5. The rest of us should take any and all further attempts by the White House to blame the SNAFU on local officials at an appropriate discount.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: