The two comedy stylings of Candidate Trump!


Along with the search for equivalence:
As you may know, we never discuss our experience writing award-winning jokes for the Al Smith Dinner.

We could do it. But it would be wrong!

Last night, we saw the field general under whom we marched discussing the quadrennial event on one of these "cable news" programs. We have a lot of respect for that guy, but we never discuss his work.

That said, last night's running of this derby was fascinating in several ways. Let's start with one peculiar manifestation—the two speeches of Candidate Trump.

Clearly, the best joke of the evening was Trump's joke about his wife. It was a very good joke, very well delivered.

Justifiably, it brought down the house. We think it went something like this:
TRUMP (10/20/16): You know, the president told me to stop whining. But I really have to say the media is even more biased this year than ever before. Ever.

You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. It's fantastic. They think she's absolutely great.

My wife Melania gives the exact! same! speech! and people get on her case! And I don't get it. I don't know why.
That's as good as jokes get at this dinner, even more so as delivered. It got a huge laugh, which was well deserved. It also signaled the approximate end of Candidate Trump's first speech.

Trump's first speech last night played by the rules. It took up roughly half his time. It was a series of jokes.

His Melania joke was the best of the night. Within moments, though, Trump was delivering this groan-inducing chunk from his second speech:
TRUMP: Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate commission?

Pretty corrupt.

Hillary is and has been in politics since the '70s. What's her pitch? The economy is busted. The government's corrupt. Washington is failing. "Vote for me. I've been working on these problems for 30 years. I can fix it," she says.


We've learned so much from WikiLeaks. For example, Hillary believes that it's vital to deceive the people by having one public policy and a totally different policy in private.


That's OK. I don't know who they're angry at, Hillary, you or I.

For example, here she is tonight in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.
Wow! Did somebody actually think that those comments would play as jokes? Or were they intended as insults?

Within the context of the Smith Dinner, the "joke" about "pretending not to hate Catholics" was just especially rank. But the groaning started as soon as Trump said, "Hillary is so corrupt..."

Were these remarks intended to play as insults? In fairness, we don't think it's entirely clear. Even a professional comedian may not realize how a "joke" will play until he tries it in public.

That said, it almost seemed that Trump had been given two speeches. Did Conway write the first of the two, with Bannon constructing the second?

The jeering of Trump began as soon as he said, "Hillary is so corrupt." The tone in the room changed instantly. This produced an intriguing challenge for the nation's journalists.

Early this morning, Jim Acosta reported this event for CNN. Acosta bowed low to a great press corps god, the jealous god known as Equivalence:
ACOSTA (10/21/16): Christine and George, it was another reminder of just how vicious this campaign season has become at the Al Smith Dinner here in New York, an occasion where candidates normally delivery light-hearted remarks and some self-deprecating jokes.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, instead, went after each other, drawing groans and boos from the audience. Here's what happened:

TRUMP (videotape): Hillary is so corrupt she got kicked off the Watergate Commission. How corrupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Watergate Commission?

CLINTON (videotape): But Donald really is as healthy as a horse. You know, the one Vladimir Putin rides around on?

ACOSTA: But there was one remarkable moment at the end of the speeches when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually shook hands, something they could not bring themselves to do at their last debate. Christine and George?

HOWELL: Jim Acosta, thank you. So, despite the awkwardness of some of those jokes and what many call the lack of civility through biting attacks, the candidates did have a few moments at that Al Smith dinner.
Acosta bowed to Equivalence, one the corps' greatest gods. That said, was Acosta's implied journalistic judgment right? Did the two candidates behave in roughly equivalent ways?

Someone else at CNN didn't seem to think so. Here was co-anchor Christine Romans, just before throwing to Acosta:
ROMANS (10/21/16): Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sharing the same stage at a dinner benefiting Catholic Charities. It's supposed to be a good-natured roast but like everything else in this presidential race, it got awkward quickly.

[Co-anchors say good morning]

ROMANS: So, so much for tradition in this down and dirty presidential election. Donald Trump's appearance at last night's Al Smith charity dinner was so incendiary, he actually got booed.

The Al Smith Dnner's always been a good-natured tradition
—a good-natured roast, a break from the ugliness of the campaign trail. It benefits Catholic Charities. White tie, all kinds of famous New Yorkers. Apparently, Trump didn't get the memo.

TRUMP (video): Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics.

ROMANS: Hillary Clinton—well, she didn't hold back either and she heard a few jeers too. Eighteen days before the election it appears the race is still here stuck in the mud.

We get more from CNN's Jim Acosta.
Romans tilted toward Equivalence at the end, but only a bit of a tad. After that, Acosta appeared and worshiped the god full-bore.

Needless to say, there is no formula which can tell a journalist how to report this event. To what extent did both candidates possibly go over the line? To what extent was it Candidate Trump alone?

No formula can answer that question. In this post, even New York Magazine basically played it safe. (For video of Trump's two speeches, click over to that post.)

Our view? In his report, Acosta presented a pair of jokes as if the two jokes were equivalent. In our view, one of the jokes was an actual joke, the other joke was an insult.

Charley Lanyon performed in a similar way at New York Magazine. In this paragraph, we'd have to say he seemed to bow to Equivalence too:
LANYON (10/20/16): When it was Clinton’s turn to take the dais, it quickly became clear that she wouldn’t be pulling any punches either. She did take a moment to praise Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway before acknowledging that because Conway is a contractor, Trump probably won’t pay her.
In our view, that was one of Clinton's best jokes. There's no rule which says you can't make a joke about the other guy.

There was nothing wrong with that joke. Meanwhile, the headline atop Lanyon's piece says this:

"A Night of Laughter, Charity, and Boos: The Candidates Struggle to Remain Civil at the Al Smith Charity Dinner"

Those darn candidates! Those darn candidates, plural!

Equivalence is a powerful god. That said, there are no rules which let us know when his familiar, roaring insistence has been misapplied.

Pierce's Law must be enshrined!


Krauthammer proves its importance:
We've learned a new truth in the past several weeks:

In the future, everything will be hacked!

In the future, everything will be stolen! This helps establish the importance of Pierce's Law, which was adumbrated on October 14:
Pierce's Law: Information doesn't become a bombshell just because you stole it.
This week, we added a corollary: Just because something has been leaked, that doesn't mean it's significant.

Just because something has been hacked, that doesn't mean it's important! The fact it's stolen doesn't mean that it's worth discussing at all.

But alas! Within the minds of the mainstream press, the fact that something has been stolen makes it deeply alluring. We've learned this fact in various ways at the Washington Post this week.

Let's start with this appalling piece by the Post's Dan Zak. It's the giant featured piece on page one of today's Style section. It comes to us straight from the sewer, or from a place next door.

Zak is exploring the stolen emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The Russians stole them, then gave them to Zak. He searched on the key term, "a**holes."

Beneath a giant photograph of the target, Zak starts by quoting emails Podesta sent to his wife. Not seeming to see how awful this is, he's soon selling us this:
ZAK (10/21/16): What happens if you measure a Washington insider not by his résumé but by his inbox? His correspondence reveals what everyone already knows but is shocked to see confirmed: In private, most of us can be pretty bitchy.

“An everyday American pompous law professor,” Podesta wrote about Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig.

“Maybe we can rent the Queen Mary for the next 18 months and fill it with [Hillary’s] brothers and assorted crazy hangers on,” he wrote in May 2015.


“F--- these a--holes,” progressive think tanker Neera Tanden wrote July 31 in an email that appears to be about doubters of Hillary’s health.

“Needy Latinos” was the subject line of an August email from Podesta regarding former Clinton cabinet officials Federico Peña and Bill Richardson.

“What an a--hole,” Podesta wrote about the dentist who killed Cecil the lion.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! To the tiny small brains at the Washington Post, dirty words are fun!

(For a companion item, check this pitiful low-IQ piddle, also from this morning's Post. Thanks to a massive layout, this pitiful piddle dominates the Post's hard-copy op-ed page. This pointless piddle was assembled by Molly Roberts, who graduated from Harvard in June. The Post has her doing this.)

Back to that stolen material! As he presents the two "a**holes" he found, Zak mutters about the important stuff in the leaks—Clinton's "speeches to Wall Street, a campaigner’s disparaging comments about religion, and insinuations that the campaign was getting debate questions in advance."

In this way, Zak pretends that bombshells were found within that stolen material.

Let's start with those speeches to Wall Street. In the dozen excerpts which were first released, only one struck us as strange. That was the excerpt where Clinton seemed to be endorsing "open borders." As part of a secret paid speech!

That comment struck us as peculiar. But uh-oh! Warning! Buzzkill alert! During Wednesday's debate, Clinton said this about that, addressing a worried Chris Wallace:

"Well, if you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy. You know, we trade more energy with our neighbors than we trade with the rest of the world combined. And I do want us to have an electric grid, an energy system that crosses borders."

We went back and read the rest of the sentence, and sure enough! She was talking about energy, although these excerpts were edited in a way which disappeared larger context.

(“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”)

Do people talk about "open borders" in the context of energy transmission? We have no idea. In this tweet, retweeted by Krugman, Dave Weigel vouches for Clinton, though only in a brief way. Last night, though, we saw Halperin and Heilemann citing this "open borders" remark from the debate as one of Clinton's slippery evasions, full stop.

There was no sign that the boys had bothered to "go back and read the rest of the sentence." But then, what else is new? We're discussing the intellectual practices of a very childish guild.

The guild loves things which are stolen! The love the excitement of the theft, the corresponding illusion of bombshell.

They also love the fruit of FOIA requests. And they love an unexpected release of material, no matter how obscure the material may be. This too conveys the impression of importance, as we learned this week when the Washington Post tried to handle an unexpected release from the FBI of something resembling information.

In fact, the FBI's (irregular) release was extremely murky. It featured a paraphrase written by an unnamed FBI employee—a paraphrase of something (allegedly) said by another unnamed employee.

On Day One, there was no way to interview either employee concerning what had allegedly been said. Meanwhile, a provocative phrase, "quid pro quo," was floating around in quotation marks within the paraphrase of the unnamed employee's remarks, though it wasn't clear who had actually used that term, or if it had ever been said.

In this, the reign of Comey the God, releases from the FBI tend to quite imprecise. In part because this release was so unclear, it was also extremely exciting. The imprecision meant that scribes could imagine the matter as they pleased. At the Post, this meant that a young reporter, atop the front page, imagined that the State Department had "pressured" the FBI regarding a "quid pro quo." Or that two persons had said that it did!

Matt Zapotosky's news reporting was a remarkable mess. In the course of 24 hours, he produced two news report and a taped interview, in the course of which he said everything which could possibly have been said.

First, he reported that someone had said that the FBI had been pressured. In a second news report, he quoted the FBI agent in question saying he hadn't been pressured. Meanwhile, on videotape, Zapotosky was shown saying, in his own voice, that the FBI had been pressured. Kathleen Parker then picked the version she liked and broadcast it to the world.

She had liked the most scandalous version. Ignoring the warning in Pierce's Law, she had spotted a bombshell.

This morning, Charles Krauthammer leaves this bullshit for dead. The passage shown below appears in the Washington Post, written by an experienced scribe who's strongly anti-Clinton.

In an attempt to support the team, Krauthammer is willing to use the term "sensational" to describe the FBI's "disclosure." But as he does, he helps us see that this murky "disclosure" was always a big pile of crap:
KRAUTHAMMER (10/21/16): The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment—a Rolex in return for your soul—which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.
As a team player and a Clinton hater, Krauthammer assumes many facts not in evidence. He even agrees to pretend that the "disclosure" was "sensational."

Then, he lists the reason why it actually wasn't sensational—the reasons, why, truth being told, this "disclosure" was nothing at all.

Pierce's Law warned about that. Pierce's Law warned against assuming that such "disclosures" were sensational bombshells.

But alas! In this case, the disclosure was offered to the small tiny minds of the guild. Zapotosky, Parker and Krauthammer rushed to execute their guild's scandal-based dimwitted culture.

Zak was handed stolen fare; quickly, he searched on "a**hole." Zapotosky wrote every possible version of the FBI's murky non-story. Parker picked and chose the version she liked. Krauthammer used the word "sensational" even as he listed the reasons why it actually wasn't.

Halperin and Heilemann didn't seem to have gone back to read the rest of the sentence.

Meanwhile, Roberts is fresh out of Harvard. It's amazing how quickly these kids today can adapt to pathetic new cultures!

Joe and Mika trash pundit consensus!


Live and direct from The Realm of the Crazy Ridiculous:
Joe and Mika started right in trashing last evening's consensus.

You can watch them doing so in today's opening segment. (Scroll ahead to roughly 5:00.) The peculiar pair rebelled against last evening's pundit consensus, in which Trump was trashed for failing to pre-endorse the outcome of next month's election.

Does Trump seem weirdly loyal to Putin? That's how Joe and Mika often seem in relation to Candidate Trump!

That said, we ourselves weren't blown away by Trump's widely denounced comments. He said we'll have to wait to see if he will concede the legitimacy of his possible defeat next month.

"I'll keep you in suspense." Thus spake Candidate Trump.

Personally, we weren't blown away by that statement. Two of our reasons are fairly mundane. Our third reason relates to the revolutionary nature of this year's White House campaign.

Why weren't we shocked by Trump's remarks about next month's election? For one thing, his remarks were consistent with everything he's said for the past several weeks. Beyond that, it is a bit strange to ask a person to pre-validate future events.

What if the election turns out to be close, and there's evidence of serious misconduct or error in some state Trump loses? Should Trump pre-validate an outcome like that? We're not real sure why.

That said, Joe and Mika went on and on about how wrong the pundits were last night. As she read a staff-prepared text, Mika was especially dumb and deceptive.

On the whole, Morning Joe panelists seemed a bit flummoxed by this latest outburst from the peculiar pair. At least in today's first half hour, no one pushed back against their hosts in the most relevant way.

Alas! The key point isn't what Candidate Trump said last night. The key point involves the question he was asked, including the reason why he was asked in the first place.

Below, you see what Chris Wallace asked, minus one small deletion. Trump was savaged for his answer. But why was this question asked?
WALLACE (10/19/16): Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic...Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you, his words, "will absolutely accept the result of this election." Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely— Sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
Let's be fair! In normal circumstances, it's slightly odd to ask a person to "absolutely accept the result" of some future event or process. What if it turns out that something goes crazily wrong with the process? Why should Trump, or anyone else, pre-endorse something like that?

In normal circumstances, Wallace's question to Trump would be slightly odd. That helps explain why questions like that were never asked in previous White House campaigns.

Morning Joe's panelists noted the fact that no previous nominee ever gave an answer like Trump's. They failed to note a more basic fact: No previous nominee has ever been asked that question!

The key point isn't what Trump said; the key point involves the reason why he was asked. The question was asked because Candidate Trump has been parading about the countryside, ominously saying that this year's election is "rigged." Here's the way Wallace's question began, with that deletion restored:

"Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you..."

The question Wallace posed last night has never been asked in prior years. It was asked last night because of the crazy claims this candidate has been making.

In their latest rant, Joe and Mika seemingly failed to grasp this basic point. Perhaps understandably in the face of their wrath, their panelists failed to articulate it.

For ourselves, we weren't blown away by Trump's statement last night. In our view, his refusal to pre-endorse the election made a type of sense.

That said, his repeated claims that the election is rigged have made no sense at all. But then again, what else is new?

In effect, Trump was doubling down last night on a series of crazy claims—crazy claims in which he tells his supporters that the election is being stolen. Without offering any evidence, he keeps telling his supporters that the election will be stolen in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis.

In several ways, this claim doesn't quite seem to make sense. (Does anyone think that Trump has a chance to win Illinois?) But Trump has said this so many times that Wallace posed that question last night—a question which was never asked in the past.

In his answers to Wallace, Candidate Trump doubled down on The Crazy. But we weren't blown away by that. This doubling-down was of a piece with the many crazy things Trump said in last evening's debate.

Alas! In this election, Candidate Trump has completed an unfortunate process. The culture of Crazy Ludicrous Statement has now become the reliable norm, so much so that mainstream pundits seem unable to spot its ascent.

In fairness, this political/journalistic culture has been growing for several decades. (The Clintons committed all those murders!) But Candidate Trump has made this culture the norm.

We were surprised by the focus on Trump's refusal to pre-endorse the election. Here are some of the other things he said:
Crazy/ridiculous/dimwitted/bogus/completely unfounded statements:
1) No one knows who committed those hacks.
2) Candidate Clinton's plan "is going to double your taxes."
3) "You're not going to find a quote from me" in which I favored the spread of nukes.
4) We could have 5-6 percent economic growth.
5) Clinton's campaign is responsible for the emergence of Trump's sex accusers.
6) Clinton should have (magically) changed the tax code when she was a senator.
7) The Clinton Foundation is "a criminal enterprise."
8) Because she herself is a criminal who lied to the FBI many times, Clinton shouldn't be allowed to run for president.
9) When she was a senator, Candidate Clinton "wanted the wall."
10) Russia's nukes are better than ours.
11) $6 billion was stolen from the State Department when Clinton was in charge.
12) Trump Foundation money wasn't used to satisfy that lawsuit.
How crazy has our discourse become? For the second straight debate, the person who had that conversation with Billy Bush said this: "No one has more respect for women than I do!"

Have you seen a single person say how stupid and crazy that is?

Also this! After saying that Clinton is a criminal; after saying that her foundation is a criminal enterprise, after saying that she is hated by the people of Haiti, Trump said this about Candidate Clinton:

"What a nasty woman!"

On CNN, the robotic Trump hacks continued to function in pairs. Sic semper CNN programming.

In fairness, The Culture of Crazy has been entrenching itself for the past twenty-five years. (Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal!) But craziness has now become the defining trait of our discourse.

For that reason, we were surprised by the focus on what Trump said about next month's election. We don't see how that stood out from the rest of his bullshine last night.

Citizens, can we talk? From June 2015 right through last night, the press corps has failed to come to terms with Trump's undisguised lunacy / mendacity / apparent need for treatment. They averted their eyes from his birther campaign; the pattern spun downward from there.

(We're so old that we can remember when he did know Putin!)

Last night, Trump said a million things which made no earthly sense. We don't really know why the pundits selected that one remark for such special review. According to our mainstream pundits, Trump's birtherism wasn't crazy, but his failure to pre-endorse next month's election is!

In our view, the craziness doesn't lie in what Trump said last night. The craziness lies in what he's been telling supporters for the past several weeks, and for years before that.

This morning, Joe and Mika's behavior seemed odd, as it often does. Perhaps understandably, their hand-picked gang of enabler pundits didn't seem able to articulate what has been going on.

Predicting what Chris Wallace will ask!


Walking away unchallenged:
What will the hopefuls be asked tonight? Twenty minutes ago as we start to type, a pair of scribes at the Washington Post offered their speculations.

DelReal is Harvard 2013; Phillip is Harvard 2010. We'd say the bright young scribes have been quick to learn to defer to the greatest god, Narrative:
DELREAL AND PHILLIP (10/19/16): Six topics will be the focus of the night, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates: immigration, the Supreme Court, the economy, national debt and entitlements, turmoil abroad and fitness for the presidency. But several dominant news stories will almost certainly take central importance.

Since the second presidential debate 10 days ago in St. Louis, a growing list of women have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual harassment and assault.
Those revelations came after the release of a damaging 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump bragged about kissing and groping women against their will because of his celebrity status. Many of the women said that they were compelled to speak out after hearing Trump during the St. Louis debate deny that he had ever forced himself on women. He has denied the accusations.

Clinton is likely to face questions about a trove of hacked emails belonging to her campaign chairman, John Podesta, that were leaked by WikiLeaks. She will probably also face renewed questions about the FBI’s decision not to charge her with a crime for using a private email server during her tenure at the State Department.
"Clinton will face renewed questions about the FBI’s decision not to charge her with a crime?" By all that's holy about Matt Lauer, didn't they mean that she will face the same old asked-and-answered questions, the memorized questions which Moses brought down from the mountain, direct from Comey the God?

Please, dear Clinton! Please please please! Repeat the same answers again! The god Equivalence demands it!

In four cases, those six topics may seem to tilt toward the Trump playlist a bit. ("National debt and entitlements!") That said, it's highly unlikely that anything valuable could proceed from any questions Chris Wallace might ask tonight, given the lack of an ongoing discussion about any actual topic.

Personally, we know what we would have liked to see Trump asked. Our questions would have concerned his record-shattering dissembling, the world-class level of misstatement which our stumblebum mainstream "press corps" never quite dared to confront.

In the first two debates, moderators haven't asked Trump to explain his birtherism. No one asked the obvious question:

"Did you send investigators to Hawaii, or was that just a lie?"

So far, no one has asked! Not in the general election debates. Not in the GOP primary debates. Not in the million and one "cable news" interviews. Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!

Also this:

In the first two debates, moderators haven't asked Trump to explain his repeated claim that he opposed the war in Iraq. No one asked the obvious question:

"In an early Republican debate, you said you could produce two dozen news reports which showed your opposition to the war, presumably meaning before the war began. So far, you've produced no such reports, and no one has ever found one. Why did you make that statement in such a high-profile forum? Were you just making that up?"

In the first two debates, moderators haven't asked Trump to explain his repeated misstatements about basic policy matters. No one has asked this obvious question, one of many:

"You have repeatedly told your supporters that the United States is the most heavily taxed nation. Since that plainly isn't the case, why have you constantly said that?"

Four cycles ago, Candidate Gore made a single extemporaneous comment about the Internet, a comment which was slightly clumsy. (The comment was only slightly clumsy. Everyone always knew what he meant, and he quickly explained.)

In high-minded fashion, the press corps spent the next twenty months pretending to be deeply disturbed by this disturbing alleged misstatement. They built it into a mighty theme, inventing a raft of additional "lies" to help establish their point.

Starting in June 2015, a candidate came along who said very few things which weren't crazily inaccurate. He was riding the wave of an earlier, deeply stupid campaign in which he'd made himself the unrivaled king of the nation's birthers.

To this day, the mainstream "press corps" hasn't managed to come to terms with that reign of relentless misstatement. In the first two debates, this candidate hasn't been asked to explain this remarkable conduct.

We'll guess the circle won't be broken. Tonight, it's said that Candidate Clinton will "face renewed questions" again!

Kathleen Parker submits to the pressure!


It's time for the Post to go:
The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker may not be a fully skilled reader.

This judgment may seem surprising. Unlike her colleague, Matt Zapotosky, Parker isn't a fresh-faced kid eight years out of college.

Parker has been a professional journalist since 1977. She became a columnist ten years after that.

In 2010, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the category of having-waited-her-turn-up-till-now. According to the leading authority, her columns appear in more than 400 media outlets.

Parker is much more experienced than Zapotosky. But in her column in today's Post, she displays a basic journalistic skill:

She seems to knows how to copy-and-paste from a younger colleague! She seems to do so in this paragraph, in which she seems to cut-and-paste from Zapotosky while misstating what he actually said on the front page of yesterday's Post:
PARKER (10/19/16): Just days before a debate that has people buying Purell by the gallon, The Post learned that a top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI into lowering the classification on one of Clinton’s emails. Although Clinton had left State by the time this happened, there can be little question that this was attempted to benefit the former secretary.
On line, Parker links to an updated news report by Zapotosky. Meanwhile, she misstates what yesterday's news report said, in precisely the way we warned about in this award-wining report.

Uh-oh! According to Parker, [Zapotosky] "learned that a top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI into lowering the classification on one of Clinton’s emails."

If true, that's a serious claim. When we read it, it almost seemed that Parker was working from the first paragraph of yesterday's front-page report. In fact, the chain of confusion/misstatement may be more complex, as we'll note below.

That said, let's return to yesterday's front-page report, where this jumble began:

As we noted yesterday, Zapotosky didn't report that a State Department official "tried to pressure the FBI into lowering the classification on one of Clinton's emails." If you read all the way to the end of his meandering first paragraph, he merely reported that that was what a couple of people had said.

Yesterday, we noted that readers were likely to misunderstand that meandering first paragraph. Here it is in all its convolution, as it appeared atop the front page of yesterday's Washington Post:
ZAPOTOSKY (10/18/16): A top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI to change its determination that at least one of the emails on Hillary Clinton's private server contained classified content, prompting discussion of a possible trade to resolve the issue, two FBI employees told colleagues investigating Clinton's use of a private server last year.
Is it true? Did a top State Department official "try to pressure the FBI" regarding that Clinton email?

If you read to the end of that wandering sentence, you'll see that Zapotosky didn't state that as a fact. He merely claimed that that was what two FBI employees said.

Yesterday, we noted that Zapotosky's full report didn't even seem to establish that claim—didn't seem to establish the claim that two FBI employees had actually made that claim. But we warned you that Zapotosky's rambling initial sentence could easily be misread.

This morning, along came Parker! She seemed to prove our matchless point, though the actual chain of custody may not be that simple.

At any rate, no, Virginia! There is no evidence that the Washington Post "learned that a top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI into lowering the classification on one of Clinton’s emails."

That isn't what Zapotosky reported on yesterday's front page. But his rambling, convoluted sentence may have given Parker that impression.

That said, what was the actual source of Parker's statement today? We aren't sure, but at this point in our wandering tale, the Washington Post becomes a full-blown ball of confusion.

In her column, Parker links to Zapotosky's news report in today's hard-copy Post. The report appears on page A3 of this morning's hard-copy Post. Yesterday afternoon, it first appeared on-line.

Can we talk? In this, the report to which Parker links, Zapotosky doesn't claim that the State Department's Pat Kennedy tried to pressure the FBI. In his one discussion of possible pressure, he quotes Brian McCauley, the FBI employee to whom Sullivan spoke.

Here's what McCauley says. He says he wasn't pressured:
ZAPOTOSKY (10/19/16): McCauley said Kennedy never pressured him and that he was unaware of Kennedy’s conversations with others. McCauley said he worked with Kennedy fairly often when the bureau needed to move personnel overseas for investigations...
In this, his second news report, that's Zapotosky's only reference to the possibility that the FBI was pressured. In that one reference, the person with whom Sullivan spoke says he wasn't pressured.

Good lord! The actual FBI employee says he wasn't pressured! But so what? On-line, Zapotosky's second report is accompanied by a bit of video, and someone at the Washington Post has appended this caption:
CAPTION TO VIDEO: The Post’s Matt Zapotosky explains how a State Department official tried to pressure the FBI into changing the classification of an email from Hillary Clinton’s server. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Say what? In his actual report, Zapotosky doesn't say that Sullivan tried to pressure the FBI. But sure enough! In that brief appended video segment, Zapotosky is shown saying this:
ZAPOTOSKY ON VIDEO: The big revelation today was that a senior State Department employee, a guy named Patrick Kennedy, put pressure on the FBI to sort of declassify or un-classify an email that traversed Hillary Clinton's private email server.
That's what Zapotosky says on the videotape. On the tape, he never cites any evidence for this serious claim.

Readers, is that statement true? Did "a guy named Patrick Sullivan" pressure the FBI?

In yesterday's news report, Zapotosky reported this as a claim. In this morning's news report, he quotes the one person who would know saying it didn't happen.

But so what? When Zapotosky sat down to be interviewed, he reported the claim as a fact! So it goes in the low-skill sandbox known as the Washington Post.

Let's return to Parker. In today's column, she makes a very serious charge: "The Post learned that a top State Department official tried to pressure the FBI into lowering the classification on one of Clinton’s emails."

That's a serious charge. But is her statement accurate? For her source, Parker links to a news report in which the one FBI employee who would know says he wasn't pressured.

The news report presents no evidence suggesting that the FBI actually was pressured. But the report is accompanied by a videotape in which the Post's reporter says that "a guy named Kennedy" did pressure the FBI.

He goes on to explain why it's such a big scandal for you-know-who, Hillary Clinton.

Zapotosky is perhaps a bit of an underskilled kid. On a purely rational basis, he shouldn't be working for an influential entity like the Washington Post, certainly not atop the front page with a sensitive topic like this.

That said, the Washington Post seems to be a sandbox full of the slower kids. This gigantic ball of confusion is another fine case in point.

According to the Washington Post, did "a guy named Sullivan" try to pressure the FBI? According to Parker, the Post has learned that he did!

Parker's statement will appear in 400 media outlets. It constitutes a serious charge. But is her statement accurate?

Go ahead! Start with the rambling sentence which sat atop yesterday morning's front page. Start with that sentence, then move on from there. You try to figure it out!

It's like the old jibe about New England weather: If you don't like Zapotosky's statement, just wait a while!