The proper thing to do after inadvertently publishing a hoax is to apologize. These things happen, after all. Publishers are not omniscient and mistakes can be made. Apologize, seek forgiveness, and then take steps to prevent future mistakes.
It’s simple, really.
But — apparently — not simple enough for the Huffington Post. As I pointed out yesterday, HuffPo published an essay entitled “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts” — an essay that purports to describe one woman’s experience with poverty. The essay went viral, and the response was so overwhelming that the author set up a gofundme page and raised more than $60,000.
Well, it turns out she isn’t actually poor, as she herself later admitted:
And that is the answer to the question many of you have asked. How is it that someone with such clarity and evocation has any right to assert that they are poor? It is likely untrue. Well, it is and it isn’t. You have to understand that the piece you read was taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not. I am reasonably normally lower working class. I am exhausted and poor and can’t make all my bills all the time but I reconciled with my parents when I got pregnant for the sake of the kids and I have family resources. I can always make the amount of money I need in a month, it’s just that it doesn’t always match the billing cycles.
Oh, and this is also true:
The real Linda owns a home, thanks to some pretty generous parents. Her LinkedIn profile states she’s been a freelance writer and political consultant since 2010, and has worked in politics since 2004, a claim backed by 27 decent connections.
She’s married to a Marine, has met President Obama while interning for a politician (who obviously wasn’t disgusted by those rotten teeth), and has plenty of time to visit Las Vegas on vacation. And blog about her privileged life on WordPress.
She speaks both German and Dutch, and has a well-rounded political blog that ended in 2011. It’s also a blog where she quite plainly references being paid to win races.
This is when HuffPo should say “our bad,” and retract the article.
But no. It doubled down. In a post today, Ryan Grim takes aim at me and others who’ve questioned the piece, claiming that the original essay holds up because the writer does, in fact, have dental problems (and provides video proof!)
Ms. Tirado wrote:
I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing?
Is it taking her “out of context” to read this statement as explicitly stating she’s poor?
Or how about this:
You have to understand that we know that we will never not feel tired. We will never feel hopeful. We will never get a vacation. Ever. We know that the very act of being poor guarantees that we will never not be poor.
Is this true? By her own admission, no. Oh, and her social-media profiles show she took a Vegas vacation.
Let’s stipulate for a moment that Ms. Tirado has faced hard times and has worked two jobs while going to school. Let’s also stipulate that she’s now telling the truth when she calls herself “reasonably normal lower working class.” Doesn’t that change the narrative significantly? Doesn’t that change the story from “the poor will always be poor” to “hard work can change your circumstances”?
The Huffington Post fell for a hoax and is still falling for a hoax. Even CNN agrees.
It’s time to apologize.