Documents in a federal fraud case allege that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to a federal official investigating a Rhode Island estate planner now imprisoned for receiving death benefits on annuities secured on terminally ill people without their knowledge.McAuliffe's camp quickly and forcefully denied the allegations. Stunningly, it turned out that the AP's Bob Lewis had concluded that a person identified in the indictment only by the initials "T.M." was Terry McAuliffe, which was not in fact the case. (McAuliffe was simply one of hundreds of passive investors in the estate planner's fund and was otherwise uninvolved in the fraud case.)
Ninety-eight minutes after first publishing it, the AP retracted the article, which inspired an outpouring of mockery on Twitter. (Sample: "Terry McAuliffe has been upheld as a tax.") McAuliffe also made a $74,000 donation to the American Cancer Society, which his campaign described as his approximate return on his investment with Joseph Caramadre, the now-convicted estate planner, as well as the amount of a donation Caramadre made in support of McAuliffe's previous gubernatorial bid in 2009.
So all in all, this was a giant nothingburger, politically speaking, but it's a huge black eye for the AP, which admitted that the retraction took "an hour and 38 minutes too long"—that is, the piece should never have been published. It was a terrible mistake to make, and not like we needed one, but it's yet another example of how the race to be first with the news has so badly undermined the paramount importance of accuracy.