Sorry not sorry: Politico's Thrush doubles down on Podesta emails

Contrition is defined as the state of feeling remorseful and penitent. And it is something that is lacking in today’s media.

Mistakes will be made, of course, that’s understood. But understand this: The days of Watergate and Spotlight (the Boston Globe investigative unit that inspired the 2015 movie that won the Best Picture Oscar) are long gone. A digital media world means more competition, more speed in going to print, more pressure to break stories to stand out.


Access is key to that. Knowing how to toe the line between being too cozy while still maintaining integrity as a reporter is a trick only real pros can master, however.

Today’s focus will be on Politico White House political correspondent Glenn Thrush, who may or may not being getting a bad rap — you be the judge — after a leaked Wikileaks email from him to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta shows this (verbatim):

“Because I have become a hack I will send u the whole section that pertains to u,” Thrush writes to Podesta. “Please don’t share or tell anyone I did this Tell me if I f****d up anything.”

Was Thrush simply doing his due diligence in fact-checking a complex story in a quest for verification? That argument can be made, yes. An argument can also be made that Thrush should have sent specific questions on what needed to be answered separately instead of the entire section of the column.

For the purposes of the focus here, let’s take a look at three things: Politico’s specific policy on the issue, contrition by the reporter and accountability from management.

First, Politico precedent: Last summer, another Politico reporter (Ken Vogel) was shown in another Wikileaks email dump sharing a story in advance with a DNC national press secretary Mark Paustenbach.

“Vogel gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors as long as I didn’t share it,” Pasterenbach, ignoring Vogel’s request not to share the story, wrote DNC Communications director Luis Miranda. “Let me know if you see anything that’s missing and I’ll push back.” 

At the time, Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring addressed the situation thusly in a statement to The Huffington Post:

“Politico’s policy is to not share editorial content pre-publication except as approved by editors,” Dayspring said. “In this case the reporter was attempting to check some very technical language and figures involving the DNC’s joint fundraising agreement with the Clinton campaign. Checking the relevant passages for accuracy was responsible and consistent with our standards; Sharing the full piece was a mistake and not consistent with our policies.”

Two fair questions: If not sharing editorial content pre-publication is the policy, shouldn’t Thrush be apologizing here? And shouldn’t some kind of reprimand be announced by the publication given a rule had been broken?

As for the apology part, Thrush has chosen defiance in a series of Tweets.

As for any reprimand or apology from Politico senior management, that appears to not be coming either. Thrush hosted his Politico podcast after the Podesta story broke and has been actively Tweeting since.

The story will likely drift away since other media reporters are ignoring it. The easy question here is this: If a reporter was caught sharing advance copies of stories with Kellyanne Conway or Steve Bannon in an effort to fact-check, do you think the coverage would be 20 or 30 times as great as this story is receiving?

Glenn Thrush attempted to fact-check a complex story. That’s a common practice by reporters far and wide and shouldn’t be condemned out of hand.

But the fact-check should have never included text from the story itself.

Thrush knows this by his own admission when he asks Podesta not to share or tell anyone he was doing it.

And Thrush being able to illustrate anger and defiance on social media shows management advocates what was done here, because the reporter isn’t acting like someone who got a stern talk from management.

The way this is playing out is nothing new this week via other Wikileaks revelations. And remember, these are the ones we know about from just one email account alone:

John Harwood, a CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent and a New York Times contributor is caught advising the Clinton campaign on multiple occasions. No apology from Harwood. No reprimand from CNBC or the Times.

Donna Brazile, a former CNN political analyst, is caught giving a Town Hall question in advance to the Clinton campaign while an employee of the network. Brazile writes she’s received questions in advance before. CNN has refused to allow an internal investigation by an outside firm to determine just how many other Town Halls and debates may have been impacted. No apology from Brazile. No apology from CNN on Brazile’s behalf, just a statement that, “We have never, ever given a town hall question to anyone beforehand.” 

Mark Leibovich, a senior reporter for the New York Times, is caught engaging in quote approval with the Clinton campaign. No apology. No reprimand. This is what the Times said in 2012 about quote approval. And what they said earlier this year about sharing of advance copies of stories.

As for how other media reporters are viewing what has been one of the darkest moments in modern media history, simply turn to CNN’s senior media correspondent and critic Brian Stelter on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources”:

“Corrupt media. In Trump’s world, journalists are really just Clinton campaign workers in disguise, collaborating with her in an attempt to rig the election. This is not just false, it’s ludicrous and it’s damaging. But you know what, his current conspiracy theory is ripped from these pages, the pages of the right-wing website Breitbart News. It says right there, the press is colluding to elect Hillary.”

Ask yourself this question: Would you deem any of the four examples above via Harwood, Brazile, Liebovich and Thrush “ludicrous?”

Is this the stuff of “conspiracy theory?”

Or do we have a very serious problem here?

Trust in media is at an all-time low. It’s been that way long before Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE announced his candidacy.

To say otherwise is amateur, naive or both.

And without remorse and accountability from any party caught in a potentially compromising situation, it’s only somehow going worse.

Much worse.

Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill