Veteran Associated Press political reporter Bob Lewis has been fired — after already being suspended — for an erroneous, quickly retracted story about gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. News editor Dena Potter was also dropped for the screwup, the Huffington Post reported today.
Lewis, who immediately took responsibility for the mistake when it was published earlier this month, has reported locally for some twenty years and was, by all accounts, well respected by colleagues and subjects alike. "We've consistently said this story is water under the bridge and did not ask for any actions to be taken against those involved," said the McAuliffe campaign in a statement. "We have had a professional relationship with Bob Lewis, Dena Potter and the rest of AP's Virginia team during this campaign."
Both Virginia senators came out with words of support:
As did Republican governor Bob McDonnell:
In the midst of a competitive election, Lewis initially reported that McAuliffe lied to federal investigators in the case of shady associate Joseph Caramadre, but the initials "T.M." in the relevant indictment referred to someone else.
"I'm hard-pressed to see how this is the right response," New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear told Politico. "I don't know all the facts. But on the surface, this is not plagiarism, this is not fabrication, this is not some malicious thing." Journalists have indeed kept their jobs after doing far worse. A Virginia political scientist added, "I'm not sure death penalty was appropriate here — I guess the AP is trying to send a signal about their standards."