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Evan Halper's own personal hell

By Leonard Pitts Jr., Tribune Content Agency on

You may trust that Evan Halper is in his own personal hell right now.

It's a place to which all good journalists go when they make mistakes. Which is to say, it's a place to which all good journalists eventually go. If the error is relatively small, one may spend a day there. If one makes a bigger blunder, one might pack for a weeklong stay.

Halper, a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, is probably having his mail forwarded.

In an article that posted Sunday, he quoted presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as saying, "The failures of the Obama era help explain how we got Trump." It was an explosive indictment: a candidate already regarded skeptically by African-American voters blaming the nation's first African-American president for the malicious child who now occupies the Oval Office.

Unsurprisingly, the social media response was ferocious, many people politely -- and not so politely -- calling for Buttigieg's head.

The problem was, he never said that. Rather, he blamed "the failures of the old normal." In a correction tweeted out before dawn -- happy hour in hell -- Halper said, "I deeply regret" the misquote, which he attributed to "transcribing a noisy recording at a loud rally."

 

It's an explanation that would make perfect sense to anyone who's ever had to decipher poor quality audio from a small device in a clangorous room -- under deadline. (Pro tip: noise-canceling headphones). Buttigieg graciously accepted the apology, and there the matter quietly ended.

Kidding.

No controversy ever ends quietly on social media. So, while many praised Halper for owning his mistake, others simply transferred their anger to him, now demanding his head instead. What was fascinating, though, was not the outrage the episode caused, but the conspiracy theories, people postulating with absolute certainty the unlikely and the absurd.

"Queen of Warmongers" tweeted: "I have trouble believing this was a 'mistake,' it feels more like a dirty coordinated hit. Real fake news."

...continued

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