When it Comes to Kochs, WaPo Picks Activism Over Accuracy

Post writers want to ‘inflame public debate,’ despite faulty facts.

The Washington Post has a new tactic to justify erroneous reporting: the intention was to create debate.

Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin attacked the Koch brothers in a Washington Post article on March 20, claiming that the Kochs had a financial interest in the Keystone Pipeline. The article insinuated that was the reason many conservatives were promoting the project.

The Post article incorrectly claimed the libertarian Koch brothers were the “biggest lease holder” in the Canadian oil fields known as the “tar sands,” and then accused them of pushing the Keystone XL pipeline legislation to better serve their financial interests there. The political PowerLine blog responded to this article by pointing out that the Kochs don’t lobby for the pipeline, aren’t the biggest lease holder and would actually most likely lose money if the pipeline was completed.

Eilperin and Mufson then responded to those criticisms March 21. Rather than apologize, the two admitted that their information was flawed, then argued that it was still justified. “The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year,” the article read. “That’s why we wrote the piece.”

Jonah Goldberg from the National Review pointed out the flaws in this argument. “By this logic any unfair attack posing as reporting is worthwhile when people try to correct the record. Why not just have at it and accuse the Kochs of killing JFK or hiding the Malaysian airplane? The resulting criticism would once again provide ‘strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year.’”

Eilperin, who co-authored this Post attack on the Koch's is married to a full-time liberal activist. Eilperin’s husband, Andrew Ronald Light Jr., is a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, a group which has repeatedly criticized the Koch brothers. Eilperin isn’t the only journalist married to a political activist. NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie is married to former Clinton-Gore senior advisor Michael Feldman, Bianna Golodryga from ABC is married to Peter R. Orszag, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama and CNN’s Jake Tapper is married to Jennifer Brown, a former field coordinator for Planned Parenthood.

Post attacks on the Kochs have crossed over into activist territory before. On Jan. 6, a front page story slammed the Koch brothers, but the article was written in partnership with a Soros-funded group: The Center for Responsive Politics.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate that Jennifer Brown is a former field coordinator for Planned Parenthood. 

— Mike Ciandella is Research Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.