Fake news is easier to digest when it’s paired with a nice fake headline.

Did the Tennessean’s Joel Ebert get punked by Marsha Blackburn?

Just minutes after the Tennessee Star announced it had polling numbers on Sen. Bob Corker’s re-elect (that would shoe he would be in big trouble if he was challenged by Rep. Marsha Blackburn), the intrepid hacks at the Tennessean were hard at work with a slapped-together “exclusive” story that was an apparent attempt to preemptively slap down any rumored challenge to Corker.  Here is the Tennessean headline and the link:

“Marsha Blackburn won’t challenge Sen. Corker, will seek re-election.”

So Marsha said she was not going to run against Bob Corker.  Stop the presses!  Just one problem, though — that’s not what she said.

Blackburn’s only quote in the story was: “I am running for re-election to the House of Representatives.  That is my focus.”

Nary a word by blackburn about Corker or a senate race.  But that did not keep Ebert extrapolating Blackburn’s brief quote and turned it into a blaring headline and blanket withdrawal from any consideration of running against Bob Corker.

As anyone who has more than ten minutes of experience advising incumbent congressmen on how to answer calls like the one Ebert had with Blackburn, the rules on how to answer such questions about future ambitions from the news media are well-defined.  Ebert probably told Blackburn that he had heard she might challenge Bob Corker. Blackburn could have answered in any of the following ways:

  1. “Why thank you for asking.  I have been secretly plotting to challenge an incumbent senator from my own party for some time now, and I had planned to announce in the fall.  But just because you asked, I am going to throw away my entire strategy and timetable, violate multiple confidences with supporters, compromise my current position as chairman of a major sub-committee, and spill my guts to you, just because you asked, Joel.”
  2. “I haven’t made up my mind.” (which of course would incite rampant speculation, generating more stories for the Tennessean).
  3. “I’m from the planet Mongo, and I have been inhabiting Marsha Blackburn’s body, which of course, makes me an ‘illegal alien.’” To which Ebert undoubtedly would have written the headline: “Blackburn is undocumented citizen.  Opposes Trump in building the wall.”

Or, Marsha might have answered exactly the way she did – preserving her options and her timetable despite the Tennessean’s desire for her to blurt out something else.

If Ebert has a recording or typed Shermanesque statement from Blackburn saying she is definitively not running or even considering running for the senate in 2018, then send it to us and we will reprint it and congratulate Ebert on his “scoop.”  Until then, Ebert and others would be well-advised to note:

Blackburn’s not running for the senate.

Until she is.

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