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AP Rewrites History of Florida Recount

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism

ACTION ALERT: AP Rewrites History of Florida Recount

September 3, 2002

In a reference to the disputed presidential election of 2000, the
Associated Press rewrote history-- history that AP itself helped make in
the first place.
In an August 25 report on a new book by Katherine Harris, who as Florida's
secretary of state played a major role in the election controversy, AP
included this attempt to provide context: "Some unofficial ballot
inspections paid for by consortiums of news agencies showed Bush winning
by varying margins."

Since AP was a member of the main media consortium reexamining the
ballots, all it would have needed to do to get the story right would be to
review its own reporting. Here's how the wire service summarized the
findings at the time (11/11/01): "A full, statewide recount of all
undervotes and overvotes could have erased Bush's 537-vote victory and put
Gore ahead by a tiny margin ranging from 42 to 171 votes, depending on how
valid votes are defined."

Another, less rigorous media review of ballots, by the Miami Herald and
USA Today, produced a more ambiguous result. As summarized by AP
(11/12/01), that review found that "Bush would stayed ahead under the
strictest standards for judging votes, while Gore would have broken on top
under the most liberal."

The outcome of the recount of the valid ballots in the Florida election is
obviously an important historical question, since the state's results
determined the outcome of the presidential election. AP has a
responsibility to refer to history as it actually happened.

ACTION: Please ask the Associated Press to issue a correction to its
August 25 story, noting that the main media recount actually showed Gore
winning a full statewide recount of Florida ballots.

Associated Press
mailto:feedback (at)

Read the August 25 Associated Press article at

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