Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Benghazi-hearing fame got it wrong shortly before noon our time today when he said during the Intelligence Committee hearing that a newspaper article would “never ever” be admitted as evidence in a trial.
In fact, newspaper articles are routinely admitted as evidence. I know this because over the course of my newspaper career, I was subpoenaed to court several times to certify that an article about to be admitted into evidence was an accurate representation of the article as I had written it.
In most cases, the newspaper lawyer was able to get the prosecutor or defense lawyer to accept an affidavit instead of requiring my testimony. In some cases, though, I had to go to court. There, I watched as one lawyer or the other would ask some jumpy person on the witness stand to read my the piece and comment on whether it accurately represented whatever the article purported to be about.
Just yesterday I was contacted by a prosecution investigator who was trying to establish whether I had written a 1992 article. He’s not looking into it out of simple curiosity. He’s looking into it because the article could become evidence.
Gowdy’s misstatement wasn’t truly important, except to the extent that he likely knows he was wrong. Before he became a hero of the Tea Party, he was a federal prosecutor, so there is a fair chance he has seen newspaper articles being admitted into evidence. He was trying to make a broader point, which is that the press can’t be trusted, especially the best newspapers.But unlike the others testifying this morning about the Trump campaign and possible Russian tampering, unlike FBI Director James Comey, Gowdy didn’t feel any particular pressure to be careful and accurate.