One interesting press angle to the recent reporting on Mike Huckabee’s role in the Wayne Dumond affair is the partnership between ABC News and the lefty website Huffington Post.
ABC’s Brian Ross and the Huffington Post’s Murray Waas have been reporting similar things about the Dumond story in the past few days. That’s not unusual on a hot news story. But in a note published yesterday, Arianna Huffington suggested that her reporter was actually working together with ABC on the story. Responding to a Huckabee campaign press release, which complained about a Huffington Post report featuring statements by former Huckabee general counsel Butch Reeves, Huffington wrote:
Tellingly, the Huckabee campaign chose to attack only the Huffington Post for our interpretation of Reeves’ comments, even though our reporter Murray Waas was joined on the phone call with Reeves by Brian Ross, ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent, who filed a report offering the same interpretation…
After seeing that last night, I sent a note to Thomas Edsall, political editor at the Huffington Post. “Is Arianna’s statement that Brian Ross was on the call with the Huffington Post reporter accurate?” I asked. “If so, is the Huffington Post working with ABC News on the Huffington/Dumond story? If so, what is the nature of the partnership? If not, why were Ross and the Huffington Post reporter on the same call? And, just to be clear, was the Huffington Post reporter Murray Waas?”
I quickly got back a response: “I have no idea,” wrote Edsall, who in addition to his duties at the Huffington Post is a special correspondent for the New Republic and the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. That was the end of the note.
A spokesperson for ABC News confirms Arianna Huffington’s account and says the network often engages in partnerships – with the Washington Post, for example, and Vanity Fair. “We are working with the Huffington Post on using some of their documents, which was disclosed in the story,” the spokesperson told me. “Waas had that information because he was in Arkansas.”
“I wouldn’t really call this a partnership, other than using each other’s information,” the spokesperson continued. “It’s the same kind of thing we would do with any outlet who had a story to tell. If it was the National Review, and they reached out to Brian and it met our editorial standards, we would use that information.”
As for the Huckabee campaign, spokeswoman Alice Stewart says she did not know that ABC and the Huffington Post were working together. Stewart told me the campaign arranged for Butch Reeves to speak to Waas. Later, Stewart talked to Reeves and told me, “He [Reeves] said Murray was kind of brief, and then Murray called Reeves back and said he had Brian Ross with him on a conference call.” As for herself, Stewart told me, “Murray never conveyed to me that he was working with Brian. We were getting double-teamed without our knowledge.”
(I don’t have Reeves’ version of the story. I called him last night, and before I could finish introducing myself, he said, “I’m not going to talk to you,” and hung up.)
I asked ABC whether the Huffington Post had approached the network with the story or whether it was the other way around. “It’s not something I would ever tell you,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t disclose how we get our sources.”