The Immaculate Concession? Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin Posts Bizarre Claim Involving The Democratic Counsel From Trump Impeachment Hearing

Today, I defended the New York Times for an opinion piece that is the basis for a defamation lawsuit by the Trump campaign. Raising such free speech protections can be challenging when you disagree with the author (as I did). It is particularly difficult when you are also the subject of a false representation in a column, as I was this week. Unlike the New York Times column, a representation of Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post was demonstrably false as a factual matter.

Rubin states that Democratic counsel Norm Eisen was able to extract concessions during the impeachment hearing despite the fact that he only asked me one question about a line that I had just published in the Wall Street Journal. Thus, my “concessions” appear to be repeating a line that I had just made in one of my own columns in anticipation of the impeachment hearings. I had been making this point repeatedly. Where is the concession? It was a point that I included in my written and oral testimony and was instructed to only answer “yes or no.” That was the only question asked of me at the hearing by Eisen. Indeed, I believe that that was the only question asked of me by the Democrats in the entire hearing.

I have asked for a correction from both Rubin and the Post and will update this column with any developments. However, given that this column has been running for days, I wanted to set the record straight.

I rarely call out writers or academics for criticism of my writings or positions. Such erroneous criticisms goes with the territory. Yet, I have rarely encountered a more demonstrably (and almost comically) false statement as the one that appeared in Rubin’s column.

Norm Eisen

This week the Post ran a column by Rubin entitled “An Unassuming Mover In Impeachment Departs The House.”  I was delighted to see a column on my friend Norm Eisen, but I was surprised when I started receiving calls from people about one line that is clearly untrue.  The column states that “[Eisen] managed to extract concessions from the Republican witness, Jonathan Turley, that were later used by House managers in the trial.” 

As a columnist, including writing for the Washington Post, I understand that such assertions can be highly subjective but on this occasion it is not just false but would have taken little to confirm that it was false. The reason is simple: I was only asked one trivial question by Eisen and the Democrats in the entire hearing. There was no new information, let alone a concession. Rather I repeated what I had just stated.

The sole question that I was asked by Eisen was actually the subject of audible laughs when I was instructed to solely answer “yes or no” to his reading of a line that I had just written in a column in the Wall Street Journal. Here is the entire exchange with Eisen from the coverage:

“And Professor Turley, you recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, and I quote, ‘There is much that is worthy of investigation in the Ukraine scandal, and it is true that impeachment doesn’t require a crime.'”

“That’s true, but I also added an important caveat,” Turley attempted to interject.

“Sir, it was a yes or a no question,” Eisen continued. “Did you write in the Wall Street Journal, “There is much that is worthy of investigation in the Ukraine scandal, and it is true that impeachment doesn’t require a crime?’ Is that an accurate quote, sir?”

“You’ve read it well,” responded a smiling Turley. 

If you watch the hearing, you will hear laughter in the background because the exercise of having me confirm a line I just wrote was a bit bizarre — as was the incidence that I not say a word beyond “yes or no.”

As I explained to the Post, I fail to see how confirming a line that I wrote a week or so earlier in a national publication is a concession of any kind, let alone multiple concessions.  I had just stated this position without any prompting from the Democrats. Indeed, the Republicans knew that that was my position going into the hearing. I had written numerous columns saying that the Ukrainian matter was worthy of investigation and that impeachment does not require a criminal act. This is akin to saying that I “conceded” that I testified in the Clinton impeachment. I had just said that I testified in the Clinton impeachment. These are less concessions than repetitions of earlier stated points.

Moreover, I know of nothing in the oral testimony that was different from what I stated in my lengthy written testimony or my oral statement.  I stated that previously identified four articles of impeachment, including bribery, were flawed and should be rejected. I stated that two articles could be legitimate but would have to be proven.  The Committee rejected those four articles and went forward with the two that I said could be rejected.  I previously maintained that position and continue to maintain that position.  I also testified that you did not require a crime – a position that I had stated in my testimony, in my prior academic writings, and in my testimony in the Clinton impeachment over 20 years ago.  I do not know of any “concession,” let alone multiple concessions, that I made in my oral testimony.  Indeed, the coverage of various newspapers noted that I was not asked anything by the Democrats of substance in the entire hearing. I received only the request to confirm a line that I had just written and the result of laughter. When Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler ended the hearing, he quoted my previously stated position that abuse of Congress, a non-crime, could be an impeachable offense. I came to the hearing with that position, which I have held for decades as an academic in both scholarship and testimony.

As made clear in my written and my oral testimony, some of my views would support the Democrats while some would support the President. The Republicans were aware of that when they first called me but still asked me to testify. The Wall Street Journal piece restated my long-standing position going back decades. It is not clear (and not stated by Rubin) what my concession, let alone “concessions,” were in the hearing when asked about something I had just said and had just written.

That would make this something of an “immaculate concession” devoid of any statement other than the repetition of a prior statement.

Thus far, my request for a correction has not been granted and column still contains a representation that is demonstrably untrue. Even if Rubin was told this by Eisen or someone else, she does not claim that it is a statement from a third party but a fact. She also did not seek to confirm such concessions or state what those concessions might be.

What is concerning is what seems like an utter lack of concern for the factual record. There is widespread distrust of the bias and accuracy of the media, particularly in coverage of the Trump Administration and impeachment.

Rubin is a self-described conservative columnist for the Washington Post and is also a MSNBC contributor. She has previously been criticized by conservatives, Fox News, and President Trump as one of the Post’s designated conservative voices. Past controversies include calls to “shun” and “shame” Trump officials and to “burn down the Republican party.” Such criticism, however, can go with the job as a columnist and Rubin is can certainly be anti-Trump and a Republican.

I have a long and valued relationship with the Washington Post, which has generously published many of my columns. I have often defended the Post against attacks by President Trump and others. However, my continuing respect for the Post and our past relationship should not be a deterrent for calling out errors when they occur. This should never have been put into the column and would have been shown to be untrue with minimal fact checking.

101 thoughts on “The Immaculate Concession? Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin Posts Bizarre Claim Involving The Democratic Counsel From Trump Impeachment Hearing”

  1. Actually, Rubin is a poseur whose job is to provide emotional validation for partisan Democrats. See the libertarian Charles CW Cooke’s critique of her writings published a couple of years back.

    Note, during the Cold War, most of the east European countries had sham political parties. For the most part, these were the corporate shells left over from pre-war political parties run in the first instance by communists who had infiltrated those organizations or by party members who had been successfully suborned. Well, we have our own equivalent on newspaper op-ed pages today, working on subsidies from Messrs. Sulzberger, Bezos, and Omidyar. It’s complete astroturf. This is a low, dishonest decade in which we live.

  2. As others have said, “You tweet it, you own it.”

    Here’s the simple and appropriate fix:

    Have your weekend contributors add their names to their tweets. It’s that simple.

    (The two incidents between you and Rubin aren’t comparable, so don’t conflate them. Many people read the text of a tweet and go no further. ‘This one’s on you.’)

    1. Says the porn writer living off of sordid royalties

      Never married huh? No kids, no family, no one to love you?

      No surprise

  3. Prof Turley, methinks thou protesteth too much. If Rubin had merely stated that you “agreed” that you had made the prior statement, that would certainly be accurate. That you “conceded” that you made the earlier statement has just about the same meaning.

    Prof Turley, you poor man, are certainly being horribly abused by Rubin. NOT.

    1. And, JT, here you go again trying to establish your allegiance to the GOP by showing that the same writer hates both them and you.

  4. I always thought Ty Cobb was a devil who could play ball. It turns out the legends of his infamy stemmed from a single source: a journalist with a reputation for lying. Ty Cobb had threatened to sue him for lying about him. After Cobb passed away, Al Stump let ‘er rip. History does not remember everyone who came to Cobb’s defense. The lies are now taken as Gospel Truth.

    1. Hearst never said “you provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war” either. But everybody believes it, as there is a gallery of authorities who have repeated it (WF Buckley, Halberstam, etc)

      We are living in blizzard of mis- and dis-information. Latest Exhibit A is “Trump cut the CDC”. And then cue the “fact checks” which frequently engage in an orgy of Lies of Omission depending on who said what. Look up the “fact checks” regarding just how much money the Russians (and a bunch of others with business before Hilary’s State Dept) gave the Clintons. Or see if any of them even acknowledge the existence of Dr. Andrew Zimmerman once the FDA’s prime witness on vaccine safety.

      1. OR, just read “Clinton Cash.” The author researched and fact checked entire book. Latest claims that “Trump knew about virus in Nov and did nothing,” made by CNN and other papers publishing propaganda, has been debunked as false info. China didn’t even tell China till well into March?
        Either journalists truly are brainwashed, or they have an alternate definition of truth, or they KNOW they’re not printing the truth and don’t care. Whatever the reason, journalists need licensing to police thier habit of straying from the truth, and inflict consequences for those who do so. Ethics is abandoned in journalism and many other professions. Somehow US has raised generations of cheaters and liars, generally speaking. Many fields require licensing to keep people honest. I suppose Clinton can make sure licenses won’t happen.

  5. Is there a remedy or not when a journalist makes a false claim about a public figure and refuses to correct the record?

    One can’t sue over an opinion, but if that opinion contained lies about the facts, there should be some method to force the record to be corrected, or sue. Otherwise, a journalist could claim that Trump (or Professor Turley) murdered someone in middle school, and there would be nothing anyone could do about it.

    Getting the facts wrong is quite different from lying. Both should be addressed through a correction.

    The First Amendment aspect is also critical. What is the difference between stating an opinion and misrepresenting the facts? Should all slander laws be abolished so that there is equal justice for everyone?

    1. The difference between opinion and misrepresenting facts is the opinions are headlined as “Commentary,” “Op Ed” or “Opinion.”
      The consequences would be something like: warning warning lose your license. I’m no lawyer, but I believe lieing about a person to affect a response or outcome within a news article, us libel or slander.

  6. Aw, C’MON, Prof Turley! You are well aware ( or should be ) that such questions during those hearings ( requiring a ‘ yes ‘ or ‘ no ‘ answer ) are framed in such a manner and within such context that a TRUTHFUL answer would appear to be contrary to the original intent/context of statements previously made . . . no opportunity for any clarification.

    And THAT is why those hearings were a howling joke!

  7. Newspaper articles, even those by JT, don’t end up in the Congressional Record unless they are put there by testimony or by a member’s request. They wanted JTs position on the record and got it. So what’s the big deal?

    1. Scott WaPo readers are generally educated professionals in higher income brackets. They’re certainly bright enough to recognize bogus news stories. So the problem is more than likely Trump.

  8. Jennifer Rubin is a complete non entity. With all due respect anyone who takes her seriously should seek therapy!

Comments are closed.