The Tampa Bay Times story sent shockwaves across the state and country Friday night. The headline proclaimed – Adam Putnam’s Office Stopped Concealed Weapons Background Checks for a Year Because It Couldn’t Log In. The story claimed “tens of thousands” of concealed weapons applications weren’t run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System because an employee in the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, couldn’t log in to the computer system.
Headline-seeking Democrats called on Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to resign and drop out of the governor’s race; political pundits said it was the end of his campaign; and the reporter’s colleagues were giving attaboys all over social media.
By the time Adam Putnam stepped before the media at a Saturday news conference, the facts of the story began to drastically change. “Tens of thousands” of applications became 365; no NICS background checks became background checks were done but not reviewed. These are significant differences. The Times spent Saturday altering its online version of the original story. Adding words to the headline and changing content in the body of the story.
In a new story about Putnam’s Saturday news conference, the reporter who wrote the original story — buried in the fourth paragraph — began to walk back his initial story saying “the Times reported that the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications but should have more precisely stated that the background checks were not reviewed…”
“Should have more precisely stated” translated means the Times got it wrong. Pure and simple. They just haven’t fully admitted it yet.
Putnam and his office aren’t without blame too. As his campaign was flailing from the accusation, it took Putnam nearly 24 hours to fully address the controversy. Twenty-four hours is an eternity in the day of a continuous news cycle. Also, Putnam’s Agriculture Department media staff had ample opportunity to share their information with the reporter. Yes, reporters typically call for comment when working on a significant story. Finally, despite taking corrective action caused by the negligence of a low-level state employee, Putnam’s office buried this confidential report hoping it would never see the light of day. That usually will come back to burn you, and Putnam got scorched.
Liberals and the media like to chastise President Trump for his use of the phrase “fake news.” But it’s news stories like this — clearly a rush to judgement without all of the facts — that make it seem the President may actually be on to something.