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Journalists made a damaging Kavanaugh story go viral - but it was too good to be true

Reporters and commentators rushed to spread a damaging story about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on social media Friday, but it turned out to be completely false. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Mainstream media reporters and commentators appeared to be much too zealous in spreading a false story on social media Friday that was very damaging to Brett Kavanaugh, the president's nominee to the Supreme Court.

"I should not have RTed this."

The story was contained in just one tweet, and it had no link, just a claim that the content came from the Wall Street Journal.

Despite the dubious sourcing, various reporters retweeted it over and over for hours, apparently in hope that the damaging story was true.

The tweet came from an account named "Alan Covington," and it said that Republicans pulled a prosecutor who was questioning Brett Kavanaugh during his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee because she had determined he had lied.

"Mitchell advised Republicans that to continue questioning Kavanaugh she was required by her oath in Arizona to inform Kavanaugh of his rights after he lied to her," the tweet read.

"That WSJ story doesn't appear to exist"

But the story was completely false, and they soon began to delete their tweets and undo their retweets.

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe apologized for rushing to post the tweet.

"I erred in believing that the WSJ 'story' was authentic and deleted my retweet as soon as I learned the tweet below was fake but didn’t have time to tweet a correction until now," Tribe tweeted. "Sorry for the delay."

Joshua Holland, a contributor to The Nation, was so incensed by the fake story, he added, "They covered up a felony in the middle of the f**king hearing." After he discovered it was fake, he tweeted, "Couldn't find the story at WSJ so I deleted this tweet."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post admitted retweeting it and warned others not to keep posting it.

Matt Yglesias of Vox News posted a screenshot of his propagation of the story - he got 53 retweets at the time of the screenshot.

Others, like Justin Sink of Bloomberg, mocked everyone for reposting the false story, and also for "freaking out" over it.

The owner of the account later claimed that he was hacked when the false message went out.

President Donald Trump has often criticized the news media for what he sees as "fake news" and anti-Republican bias.

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