The Dallas Morning News posted a story online tonight saying that witnesses may come forward who claim to have seen President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky during an "ambiguous incident," the latest twist in an episode that has raised journalistic issues.
Late last night, the newspaper pulled a story from its Web site stating that a Secret Service agent was prepared to talk with independent counsel Kenneth Starr about seeing the president and the intern in a "compromising situation."
According to the News, that story was yanked because its chief unnamed source, a Washington lawyer, told the paper that "the information provided for that report was inaccurate." It still appeared in more than 30,000 copies of the News's morning newspaper, however.
The paper reported tonight that former U.S. Attorney Joseph di Genova, who is not directly involved in the case, said the "essence" of the story was correct.
The incident has raised familiar journalistic issues, such as the use of unnamed sources and newspaper corrections policies. But the immediacy of Internet publishing has exponentially raised the stakes in the business of getting a story first and getting it right. (See related story)
Clinton denied last night's report by the News. The follow-up report appeared while the president was delivering his State of the Union address tonight, so he had no immediate comment.
The News didn't run an official retraction or correction last night, just the statement that its source said he was wrong. The source, the paper reports today, said "elements of the story he had initially outlined were incorrect."
Readers have been responding to the publication of last night's story, which was rebroadcast by television outlets throughout the nation. Most were angry that the newspaper wasn't more thorough before posting it. The discussion is posted on the Dallas Morning News' Web site.
"I read that you misreported some facts associated with a serious charge against the president," one reader wrote. "As you know, it is your business to get the facts correct before going to print."