It was only a matter of time before a wild rumor about the Palin family broke into the mainstream. Now the line has been crossed by Andrew Sullivan, who blogs about it at the Atlantic.com. The rumor: Sarah Palin is not the mother of young Trig Palin. The mother is actually her 16-year-old daughter, Bristol.
I strongly believe Sullivan should have laid off this. I could have linked to it yesterday, but didn’t, since at that point it was only fodder for a pseudonymous diarist at the Daily Kos. This is the sort of hurtful story that reputable news organizations should check out thoroughly before injecting into the debate. I mean, come on. Does anyone think Josh Marshall hasn’t been following this? Or dozens of other liberal political blogs and Web sites, including Media Nation? None of us went there, and Sullivan shouldn’t have, either.
Interestingly, the Huffington Post beat Sullivan with a double-reverse flip, raising it only to tut-tut about ethical standards at the Kos.
But now, thanks to Sullivan’s reputation as one of the early blogfathers and the prestige of the Atlantic, this story is, for all intents and purposes, Out There. Which news organization will be the first to debunk it? Or, uh, not?
Instant update: Sullivan is already defending himself:
The job of a press is to ask questions which have a basis in fact. Read for yourself the full chronology here. See whether you are certain there are no legitimate questions worth asking. I have claimed nothing.
Sorry, but it doesn’t wash. The job of the press is to ask questions and then to present its findings to the public — or, in this case, if it found nothing, to do its best to make sure the story never saw the light of day.
If Sullivan was that worked up about about the Palin rumor, he should have e-mailed some reporters he knows and asked if they were on the case. This is the definition of a story that shouldn’t be hashed out publicly.