After National Journal published a headline that led readers to believe Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) got drunk while singing karaoke at a fundraiser–though the article clearly stated that he did not–Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) denounced it as “libelous” on the House floor on Friday and 23 House Republicans signed a letter demanding a written correction in the publication’s next printed edition.
That letter eventually did not get sent because the publication corrected its headline online on Friday after Gohmert even said that the outlet’s $617,000 annual contract with the House may have to be re-examined because of its “outrageous” and “sleazy” actions.
On Thursday, National Journal, online and in its daily print edition, headlined its story about the Tuesday fundraiser, “Drunken Karaoke with Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY),” which led readers to believe that he was singing karaoke while he was drunk. In the print edition, a picture of Amash, as the letter observes, was superimposed “behind a microphone–as if he were a defendant at a criminal trial.”
In the 16th paragraph of the story, though, the reader finds out that Amash did not participate in the karaoke and was drinking water at the fundraiser for Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY):
To the chagrin of attendees, two of the only people who decline to participate in the musical revelry were Amash and Massie. They have different excuses. Amash says his musical talents are limited, and seems content to watch other people embarrass themselves. (Plus, he is drinking water, and appears to lack the liquid courage often required to perform in such a venue.)
Gohmert denounced the National Journal in an impassioned speech on the House floor on Friday in which he said the publication’s headline was “libelous” and “outrageous.” And after the author of the article also pressed to get the headline, which editors are responsible for, changed, it eventually got corrected online to, “Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) Headlines Karaoke Fundraiser for Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY).” That was followed by this note:
(NOTE FROM THE EDITORS: In the print version of this story, the headline and photograph left the impression with some readers that Rep. Justin Amash was drinking alcohol at a fundraiser. As the story noted, the congressman was drinking only water and did not participate in the karaoke event. We apologize for the confusion.)
The letter, addressed to Glenn Justice, the editor of National Journal Daily, stated that the headline was “shockingly misleading” and requested that the publication “provide a written correction to the headline and graphic in the next printed edition of your publication.”
“The casual reader of your publication likely was left with the strong impression that Rep. Amash had gotten into trouble,” the letter reads. “Indeed, that was the widespread reaction to the front page among those who did not parse the article to realize that nothing of the sort happened.”
The letter was signed by 23 House Members, including Amash and Reps. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).
Speaking on the House floor on Friday, Gohmert lit into the publication and said he was so outraged by the smear that he “did some checking” and discovered that National Journal has a contract worth $617,000 a year to provide House Members with copies of the daily publication. Gohmert said that it may be time to take another look at that contract.
“It’s very clear that Justin Amash didn’t have anything to drink,” Gohmert said, mentioning that the writer noted that Amash “did not participate in any singing or drinking.”
He mentioned that the National Journal has published some “suspect” ratings of Republicans and stories in the past and emphasized that the headline was “garbage” and “as sleazy as it gets.”
Gohmert also said the least National Journal could do is give a “front-page, top-story apology” in its next print edition.