UPDATED: Nov. 6, 2015, 7:23 p.m. ET, to reflect Politico adding an editor’s note.
DC media watchers and conservatives piled onto Politico on Friday afternoon after the news outlet edited its explosive scoop about Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson having claimed to have been offered a “full scholarship” to West Point when he was younger.
The original story, published shortly before noon ET on Friday, ran with the headline “Ben Carson admits fabricating West Point scholarship scholarship.”
The lead-off paragraph of the article said Carson’s campaign “admitted…his application and acceptance” to the prestigious U.S. Military Academy at West Point was “fabricated.”
Hours later, Politico changed the headline and first paragraph. The title was edited to drop the “fabrication” framing, instead touting it as an “exclusive.”
As of 5 p.m. ET Friday, the headline read:
No editor’s note or correction originally accompanied the changes, further fueling critics accusing the publication of making stealth corrections, after they were first published.
A lengthy editor’s note was later added detailing the changes.
“Carson never explicitly wrote that he had applied for admission to West Point, although that was the clear implication of his claim to have received an offer of a ‘full scholarship,’ a point that POLITICO’s initial report should have made clear,” Politico said in the note.
Politico stood by the story. Spokesperson Lauren Edmonds sent a statement to TPM on Friday evening:
“We continue to stand by the story. We updated it to reflect Ben Carson’s on the record response to the New York Times and other new details, which underscore the validity of our original reporting.”
Here’s a small sampling of the criticism Politico received:
Politico admits to fabricating headline: https://t.co/bytNcCCCog
— Kendall Breitman (@KendallBreitman) November 6, 2015
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) November 6, 2015
Note: Politico just altered the headline and lede to remove the bombshell claims about Carson. Doesn’t note that it made the changes.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 6, 2015
Ironically, Politico did to Carson what Republicans often do to Democrats (see McCarthy’s Benghazi comments): Overreach & muddy the waters.
— Matt Lewis (@mattklewis) November 6, 2015
The new Politico lede remains problematic: Carson just now “conceded that he never applied,” tho he wrote that in his memoir 23 years ago.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) November 6, 2015
After the original article came out, the Carson campaign went on the offensive – insisting the candidate never applied after weighing his options – as questions were raised about whether the retired neurosurgeon’s “full scholarship” was evidence he applied to the school.
Carson told the New York Times the scholarship offer came in an “informal” meeting, where he was told his stellar academic record could “easily get [him] a scholarship to West Point.”
A spokesman for the campaign later called the story “an outright lie.”