It was a mistake by a Politico copy editor.
That's how Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University and co-author of yesterday's controversial Sarah Palin op-ed, explained how a quote was attributed to Palin (seemingly critical of Michele Bachmann) even though she never said it.
"Not only did Palin never say those words, we never attributed them to her," he said in an e-mail to The Blaze, referring to his and Paul Goldman's opinion piece about a hypothetical rivalry between the Tea Party darlings.
In the original piece published on Friday, Rozell and Goldman's op-ed included a supposed Palin quote that went like this: “'I built this constituency, not Bachmann, not anyone else,' she said."
Politico eventually issued a correction, removing the quotes and the words "she said" and calling it an "editing error." After we covered that correction, The Blaze exchanged e-mails with Rozell and he explained in more detail what happened.
According to him, he and Goldman signed off on a version they thought was final. However, after that a Politico copy editor inserted the words "she said" without notifying them:
A copy editor at Politico added the words "she said" to the primal scream reference, making it look like we had attributed the words directly to Palin. The copy editor introduced this error to our piece after we had signed off on what we thought was the final version. I was stunned when I first saw the piece this morning and I called the Opinion section editor to alert her to this egregious mistake. She immediately got the two offending words removed and a correction issued. Obviously that did not end all the speculation and assumptions by many about the origins of the mistake.
That version of events seems to be consistent with the correction issued by Politico. But still, even though Politico inserted "she said," I wondered who was responsible for putting the phrase in quotes in the first place.
According to Rozell, he and Goldman did use quotation marks in the original version they sent to Politico. To be sure, using quotation marks in a hypothetical quote or when quoting someone's supposed thoughts isn't technically wrong. But considering that it can lead to problems, I asked Rozell why not use some other grammar mark to note the quote wasn't actually from Palin. For example, it's common to use italics instead of quotation marks in that type of grammar situation.
"I'm with you: italics would have been better," Rozell admitted. "Not just better at the correction stage, but better at the outset."
Despite recognizing italics would have been better and less confusing, Rozell still believes most of the responsibility lies with Politico.
"Had the piece appeared exactly as we had written it, no one would have thought we were suggesting that sentence was a direct quote by Palin," he explained. "Within context of the reference to her 'primal scream,' followed by the colon, it was obvious we were not claiming she actually said it."
He concluded: "The trouble occurred because the copy editor added the words 'she said.'"