Progressive Bloggers Spread False Ebola Story

The left-wing blogosphere was all over a report that the House GOP was cutting Ebola funding. Too bad the story wasn’t true.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Getty

Republicans aren’t cutting Ebola funding, but progressives were happy to jump on a report that said the GOP would provide less than half of what the White House requested to prevent the spread of the disease.

It’s a case study of how quick rumors can erupt into outrage, and how tentative reports which are not updated can take on a life of its own.

Last Friday, the White House upped its Ebola funding request to $88 million, which would go toward the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as money to hasten the development of new medicines. On Tuesday, The Hill quoted an anonymous source that said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers was only willing to fund $40 million to counter the epidemic.

The source turned out to be incorrect. The spending bill House Republicans have put forward matches the White House request for $88 million, and the House Appropriations Committee said the original report of only $40 million was wrong.

“The Chairman agrees with the President’s request that the funding is necessary to fight against and prevent the further spread of Ebola,” committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing told The Daily Beast.

But the rumor that House Republicans were cutting funding for Ebola had already taken off. Even at its broadest interpretation, the report only suggested House Republicans would not fully meet the president’s entire request for funding, so there was never funding to cut. But that didn’t stop a who’s who of progressive blogs from vilifying Republicans all the same.

“House Republicans slash funding that would help fight Ebola,” thundered Salon. Think Progress bemoaned the shortage of funds, personnel and beds while noting “reports” that House Republicans would not fully fund the White House’s request.

The Rachel Maddow Show criticized the “post-policy tendencies of congressional Republicans” and speculated that perhaps the GOP had arbitrarily picked a smaller amount of funding to stick it to the Obama administration. “House Republicans have gutted a White House-sponsored bill,” wrote Raw Story.

The Hill story quickly went everywhere, and it was briefly linked to by The Daily Beast.

The Hill posted a new article on Tuesday, saying that Chairman Rogers had reversed his position. The House Appropriations Committee insists that no decision had been made at the time of the original report, and so there was no reversal.

The Hill didn’t update its original story, leading several progressive sites to continue linking back to it. MSNBC’s Maddow Show write-up, for example, was published the day after The Hill had already written a follow-up story saying the House GOP would fully fund the White House’s request for Ebola spending.

It’s a little wakeup call for bloggers, and a reminder to double-check your sources. And if you’re citing “reports,” make sure there is more than one.