Skipping ahead to the conclusion, here are the liars: Bill Clinton a little, Politico.com some, and Kendrick Meek a lot.
First off, Politico.com, which broke the story yesterday that Clinton supposedly urged Meek to quit the Senate race. Meek, the article claimed, decided to quit -- twice -- only to later back down from his decision. The story was picked up nationally (including here), and after patent denials from Clinton and Meek, Politico offered no apologies today for its reporting.
In fact, one of the site's columnists defended writer Ben Smith, who originally reported
the story. Maggie Haberman claimed Clinton's denial "doesn't actually contradict anything" that Smith wrote.
And that's where Politico isn't telling the truth. Smith's original story claims Meek said twice that he'd quit. Clinton's denial contradicts that, saying: "I didn't ask Kendrick to leave the race, nor did Kendrick say that he would."
(Asked for a response, Smith sent a one-line response: "Thanks for the email, not sure I have much to add to what I've written and blogged today.")
Now on to Clinton, who also appears to be redefining is once again. Politico's story quotes former Clinton aide Doug Band and another Democratic source as confirming that Clinton urged Meek to quit. The New York Times and the Miami Herald cited another Clinton source, current spokesman Matt McKenna. McKenna could be the unnamed source Politico cited, but that's two, maybe three, independent sources who confirmed the story. Three sources independently recalling a story incorrectly in the same way just isn't plausible.
What's more likely is that Clinton's statement is nuanced. Maybe he didn't "ask" Meek to quit, but perhaps he urged him very strongly, in the way a former president can do. And maybe Meek didn't tell Clinton that he'd quit, but perhaps he told Clinton's aides, secretary, or Clinton's chocolate lab, Seamus. Either way, the likelihood that Clinton didn't know about Meek's plans to quit seem to point to Clinton at least failing to tell the whole truth in his statement.
And finally Meek, who seems to be lying his election-losing ass off. Meek made the rounds on the morning talk shows Friday to deny that he ever said he'd get out of the race. If we are to believe that, two, maybe three reliable sources are lying. Again, that doesn't seem likely.
Meek tried to spin the story on CNN by saying this was an attack by Crist. "It seems part of the Crist strategy" to try to get him out of the race, Meek said. Considering it was Clinton who approached him about this and likely urged him to drop out, claiming it came from Crist is just bad politics, if not a lie on its own.
In the end, Meek's decision to stay in the race will be moot. His poor reaction to the Politico story surely solidifies his eventual third-place finish.