The Washington Post dramatically altered its definition of “facts” in support of an unchecked story about a 10-year-old girl seeking an abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Written by Glenn Kessler, editor and chief writer of the Post column “The Fact Checker” since 2011, the article analyzed a story that immediately went viral following the Supreme Court ruling and admitted that no piece of hard evidence has emerged to back it up even though multiple media outlets, including President Joe Biden himself, have repeated the story as gospel.
The story appeared in the Indianapolis Star on July 1 and centered on how women have been traveling from Ohio to Indiana to obtain abortions. Among other claims, the article quoted Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Caitlin Bernard claiming to have received a call from “a child abuse doctor” in Ohio that had planned to send a 10-year-old girl to Indiana to receive an abortion. This story was not confirmed by the publication and the newspaper relied solely on Bernard’s testimony.
“There is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm her account,” noted Kessler in the Washington Post fact-check. “The story’s lead reporter, Shari Rudavsky, did not respond to a query asking whether additional sourcing was obtained.”
Fact Checker: A one-source story about a 10-year-old and an abortion goes viral https://t.co/Bcy4rmc8Zs
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 9, 2022
When asked, the newspaper’s executive editor Bro Krift said, “The facts and sourcing about people crossing state lines into Indiana, including the 10-year-old girl, for abortions are clear. We have no additional comment at this time.”
News organizations from the Guardian to the Daily Mail to CNN ran with the story and were not able to independently verify the claims presented by Bernard, who did not even provide the name of the city where the child was located. Thank you so much for reaching out. She said that she was sorry but didn’t know any details.
Despite all of these strikes against the story, including the fact that none of the child protective services in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, or Toledo, could confirm the rape and subsequent pregnancy of a 10-year-old girl, Kessler said the story has attained “fact” status due to viral repetition.
” This is an extremely difficult story to verify. Kessler wrote that Bernard was on record. However, it is difficult to obtain documents or any other proof without specifics about the location where the rape took place.
” With news coverage from all over the world and a Presidential imprimatur, this story is now considered a fact regardless of its source. He concluded that if a rapist were ever to be charged, then the facts would finally have more foundation.”