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Anatomy of an Error: The Bain of CNBC’s Existence

After poring over some government documents, CNBC’s Eamon Javers reported that Bain & Company, Mitt Romney‘s former firm, was one of the consulting companies that took part in the auto bailout. Javers’ CNBC.com report Thursday seemed like a well-timed piece of information since Romney had been getting broadsided by GOP rivals for his role at Bain.
By Thursday evening, the story was being reported on political websites. Friday morning it was referenced on “Squawk Box.” But just a few hours later, Javers had written this retraction on CNBC.com:

Bain & Co. said it has no connection to the “Bain Consulting” firm referenced in government documents.

That’s when this all started getting attention from the media-on-media sites. First on Business Insider, and by Saturday morning in the Z on TV column in the Baltimore Sun: “News organizations are not supposed to be the source of dangerously wrong information,” writes David Zurawik, “they

are supposed to be the ones that sort out the good from the bad information and present what is verified and true to voters.”

But as it turns out, the government documents may have been wrong, which would make Javers’ reporting right. BI reported Friday night:

When we contacted the Treasury, they said that the report was hastily written and that they were, in fact, referring to Bain and Company of Mitt Romney fame. So according to the Treasury, they did talk to Bain and Company…

A CNBC source tells TVNewser Bain & Company has not yet called Javers back.

But for now, the story remains off CNBC.com, with the site’s managing editor writing on Sunday, “We did some subsequent investigation which revealed that the story may not have been entirely wrong after all,” but adding that Javers’ story, “suggested a much stronger tie than was the case.”

So the story — right or wrong — is not over.

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