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A columnist for The Washington Post was called out for a blatant conflict of interest after writing a praise-filled piece about presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Karen Tumulty pushed back in response to a comment about her positive column on the former vice president and the fact that her son works for his campaign. The Washington Post reporter-turned-columnist was on the receiving end of scolding messages on social media after the information was highlighted.
Tumulty disclosed her son’s employment with the Biden campaign in a short note in her article focused on the Democrat’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, in the Sunday column headlined “The woman who transformed Joe Biden’s campaign.”
The article noted how “political veterans say the harmony she has fostered with the Democratic National Committee and the party’s liberal allies is smoother than anything seen in decades,” referring to Dillon.
She also gushed over Biden in many portions of her piece.
“What voters have seen over the past months is an uncharacteristically crisp and disciplined candidate. Biden has generally stayed on script as he rolled out a series of meaty policy proposals to address the problems at hand, including his plan to restore the economy and his strategy to deal with climate change,” Tumulty wrote.
She also noted the “near-flawless debut” of his newly-named running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris and “how well the Biden operation is clicking.”
But it was with her remarks about the campaign manager that Tumulty raised eyebrows and came under fire.
Writing that Dillon has been “transforming what had been an underfinanced, undisciplined and dysfunctional Democratic primary operation into a general-election machine capable of carrying Biden through to the November election,” she added parenthetically: “(Disclosure: My adult son works for the Biden campaign).”
The statement set off criticism on social media where many pointed out the conflict of interest for Tumulty. Politico reporter Daniel Lippman called it “quite the disclosure.”
— Daniel Lippman (@dlippman) August 16, 2020
His tweet prompted a “fuller disclosure” from Tumulty.
“Fuller disclosure: My adult son has been working for the Biden campaign for a week as a research assistant. I have been covering politics for 40 years. Should I give up covering politics? Or tell my adult son not to pursue a career he wants?” she wrote. “Would love advice from other parents.”
Fuller disclosure: My adult son has been working for the Biden campaign for a week as a research assistant. I have been covering politics for 40 years. Should I give up covering politics? Or tell my adult son not to pursue a career he wants? Would love advice from other parents.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) August 16, 2020
Tumulty also recommended that Lippman read her other columns about the Biden campaign as proof that she has been “consistent” in both her praise and criticism of the presumptive nominee.
Highly recommend that @dlippman read my columns about the Biden campaign for the past year, and he will see that it is totally consistent. In the criticism and the praise.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) August 16, 2020
Former Politico reporter Meredith Shiner dismissed the controversy, writing in a tweet in response to Tumulty that a “research assistant is not an important or powerful enough position to give any sort of access or favor.”
honestly a research assistant is not an important or powerful enough position to give any sort of access or favor. Also if it’s oppo research, we all see it said out loud every day. And if it’s policy research, we all see what’s failing. Call us back when he’s running a campaign. https://t.co/dMIYxoyM5s
— Meredith Shiner (@meredithshiner) August 16, 2020
Others also came to the writer’s defense.
Quite the disclosure that Lippman doesn’t know what an opinion piece is.
— big Biden/Harris energy tbvh (@GodDammitSammyD) August 17, 2020
Not really, Dan. Karen Tumulty is a consummate professional, and she did her duty to disclose this. Give me a break.
— Dagny Taggart (@dagnytaggart76) August 16, 2020
But for many Twitter users, the conflict remained, especially as the liberal columnist at the equally liberal newspaper will be spinning plenty more “opinion” pieces praising Biden in the weeks to come.
Isn’t it up to us, as readers to do what we will with the disclosure? Making these disclosures is the right thing to do, but they don’t nullify the potential conflict of interest merely by their existence.
— Caveman Meme Reviews (@PithyJoe) August 17, 2020
— I’m the moose out front (@opendoorsanity) August 16, 2020
— Red Dot in a Blue Dot in a Red State (@reddotinaustin) August 16, 2020
True, Tumulty’s son is not in a powerful position. But young staffers are often hired at least in part BECAUSE of their connections.
— Marla Rose (@MarlaMRose) August 17, 2020
The MSM is a walking conflict of interest.
— M P 🇺🇸 (@MP74422664) August 17, 2020
They never criticize their own. We all know if this was the other way around & she wrote a fawning praise filled article about @POTUS she wouldn’t be working there today. Her son may be a tiny piece of the machine but maybe she’s helping him advance his career at the same time.
— Bill Allen (@wdabill) August 17, 2020
Isn’t everyone at the Post working for Biden?
— Christopher Gidley (@pudd49) August 17, 2020
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