WashPost Fixes Multiple Errors in Story on Pelosi and Human Baby Question But Notes Only One 'Correction'

By Michael W. Chapman | October 2, 2015 | 3:38pm EDT

Factually incorrect headline in 

Washington Post story, Oct. 1, 2015.

(Screenshot: PowerPost, 

The Washington Post)

(CNSNews.com) – Several hours after posting a news story with several errors, including in the headline -- about a CNSNews.com reporter asking Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a question about human life – The Washington Post fixed the errors in the story by reporter Kelsey Snell but only noted one “correction” at the story’s end in the changed copy.

On Thursday, Oct. 1, CNSNews.com reporter Sam Dorman attended Pelosi’s weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol and asked her, “In reference to funding for Planned Parenthood, is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?”

Pelosi, who supports abortion and Planned Parenthood, said, “Why don’t you take your ideological questions – I don’t, I don’t have –.”  Then CNS’s Dorman asked, “If it’s not a human being, what species is it?”

Pelosi did not answer that question directly but talked about being a “devout and practicing Catholic” and a “mother,” and added, “I do not intend to respond to your questions, which have no basis in what public policy is, that we do here.”

In Kelsey Snell’s story posted at 12:14PM at The Washington Post’s PowerPost,  the headline incorrectly read, “Nancy Pelosi shut down an abortion protestor’s question in a press conference.”

There was no “abortion protestor” at the press conference; the question was asked by a CNSNews.com reporter, who is credentialed with the U.S. Capitol.

In the lead of the story, Snell also incorrectly reported that Pelosi “was not interested in entertaining questions Thursday from an anti-abortion protestor who shouted a question to the California Democrat during her weekly press conference.”

There was no “anti-abortion protestor” and the question was not “shouted.” (See the video.) In addition, the lead is further misleading because it has changed from the headline’s  “abortion protestor’s” to “anti-abortion protestor.”

Kelsey Snell, a reporter for

The Washington Post. 

(Photo: Twitter.)

In the second paragraph of her story, Snell wrote that, “the protestor sat in the first row of the presser and spoke up over several reporters vying to ask a question of the Democratic leaders.”

Again, the reporter, Sam Dorman, was not a “protestor.”

Snell then wrote, “It was unclear who the questioner was and for which news organization they worked.”  Here the facts changed again somewhat, with Snell claiming the “questioner” – not the “anti-abortion protestor” – worked for a “news organization,” the identity of which was “unclear.”

Snell did not speak with CNSNews.com ‘s Sam Dorman at the press conference. She did not ask for his name or his news affiliation; and she did not email him or, even later, make a telephone call to CNSNews.com to clarify her report.

One hour after Snell’s inaccurate story was posted, CNS’s Dorman did tweet Snell, saying, “I am not an anti abortion ‘protestor.’ I am a credentialed member of the press. Please correct your story.”

Snell replied, “I’ve let the editors know of your request.”

Finally, in her first, uncorrected story, Snell wrote, “It is not uncommon to see protestors in the Capitol or for news organizations with an ideological perspective to attend press conferences.”

Snell did not name the “news organizations with an ideological perspective” to which she was referring. When CNSNews.com asked her by Twitter Direct Message if The Washington Post was one of the “news organizations with an ideological perspective,” Snell did not respond. 

(AP photo)

She also did not answer numerous questions that CNSNews.com sent to her by Direct Message, including who told her that the questioner was “an anti-abortion protestor”? Also, if it was “unclear who the questioner was,” then why did Snell report that it was a “protestor”? Where did she get this information?  And is she credentialed as a reporter at the U.S. Capitol?  Snell did not reply.

Given the errors in the story, The Washington Post fixed them. In a repaired version on Thursday, the new headline read, “Nancy Pelosi shut down a reporter’s abortion question in a press conference.”

Secondly, the new lead says, “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not interested in entertaining questions Thursday from a reporter from conservative news outlet CNSNews.com who pressed the California Democrat on her views on abortion.”

The Post dropped the words “anti-abortion protestor” and “shouted.”

However, even the new lead (and headline) is misleading because the question was not about Pelosi’s “views on abortion.”   The question, which is on video from the press conference, was, “In reference to funding for Planned Parenthood, is an unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver a human being?”

CNSNews.com reporter Sam Dorman.

Also in the newer version of the story, The Washington Post dropped the word “protestor” from the second paragraph.

In addition, The Post in the changed story completely dropped Snell’s sentence, “It is not uncommon to see protestors in the Capitol or for news organizations with an ideological perspective to attend press conferences.”

At the end of the fixed story, The Post wrote, “Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the questioner as a protestor. The question came from a reporter from CNSNews.com, a conservative news site.”

The “Correction,” however, is not accurate.  The “earlier version” of the story incorrectly referred to the questioner as “an anti-abortion protestor,” not solely a “protestor.” 

Kelsey Snell, according to her LinkedIn page, holds a Masters of Journalism degree from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. Prior to starting at The Washington Post in April 2015, Snell was a tax reporter at Politico. She also worked at the National Public Radio back in 2010. 

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