On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation’s reporter Lachlan Markey posted a story with some of the trademarks of a scoop. A search of White House visitor logs revealed four visits by someone named “Derrick A. Bell.” Markey called the White House, but came up dry. “Heritage could not independently confirm that the Derrick A. Bell listed is the same individual who spoke at the rally,” he noted. “The White House did not return a request for comment.”
It was left to ABC’s Jack Tapper to shred the story, with a precious White House comment. “The answer from a White House official: this was not the same Derrick A. Bell,” he reports. “He had a different birthday than the late law professor, whose birthday was November 6, 1930. That would seem to undermine the significance of this visit.”
The result of the two-day story: Heritage is left holding the bag, appending a note to the original story. They could have spared everyone some time had the White House just responded.
“When Lachlan discovered the name Derrick A. Bell in the visitor log, he immediately contacted the White House for confirmation,” says Heritage’s Rob Bluey, who runs the think tank’s journalism hub. “But as has been the case in the past, we received no response. That’s why we noted in the story we couldn’t independently confirm it was the same person as the late Harvard professor. The only way for us to get a resonse from this White House is to have someone like Jake Tapper ask about it or for it to come up in the briefing room with Jay Carney.”
This isn’t a new conservative beef. A year ago, the DOJ lawyer-turned-DOJ critic J. Christian Adams got tired of waiting for FOIAs to come back from the White House, so he gathered info on how quickly other peoples’ FOIAs were honored. Surprise: In some cases, conservatives had to wait months longer than non-conservatives. The Derrick Bell request was a whole lot simpler than a FOIA, but Heritage got nada.