After The Washington Post published a lengthy investigation into the origins of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, including the bombshell revelation that 147 FBI agents were looking into her private server, the newspaper corrected its report late Tuesday to note the number of agents looking into Clinton’s emails was actually fewer than 50.
“One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey,” read the original report, which was published on Sunday.
Though the anonymously sourced figure was buried halfway through the nearly 5,000-word story tracking Clinton’s private email use, national outlets including The Hill, Breitbart News, The National Review, and Gawker zeroed in on the number of agents purported to be on the case in their coverage of the Post’s report.
The Post’s marquee politics blogger, Chris Cillizza, also wrote his own blog post titled, “There are 147 FBI agents involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.” He noted that the number of agents seemed like “a ton for a story that Clinton has always insisted was really, at heart, a right-wing Republican creation.”
Corrections were added to both Cillizza’s post and the original report, written by Robert O’Harrow Jr., on Tuesday evening. According to the updates, two U.S. law enforcement officials told the newspaper that 147 agents was far too high an estimate and that the correct number was fewer than 50.
On Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC published a report citing an anonymous former law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the email investigation who said the actual figure was around 12.
“147 was such a ridiculous number,” the source told MSNBC, adding that 50 agents was also an unlikely number for this sort of investigation. “You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something.”
The Post’s significant walk-back of a seemingly notable new development in the Clinton email saga recalls another erroneous story on the subject published last summer in The New York Times.
In July 2015, the Times reported that two inspectors general had asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a criminal inquiry into whether Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account. The paper then issued two corrections and a lengthy editor’s note apologizing for the “mess” of a story and confirming that the request for a probe was not criminal in nature, nor was Clinton herself the target of the inquiry.
The Post’s full correction is posted below:
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used only firstname.lastname@example.org as secretary of state. Also, an earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.
h/t Media Matters
This post has been updated.