the john roberts retirement rumor

So did people here about this John Roberts retirement rumor thing? Radar posted this item about how the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was considering retiring, and then quickly retracted it.

The Above the Law blog claims that Radar got this from a law school exercise. Apparently Georgetown University professor Peter Tague began his class Thursday by announcing that Roberts would resign the next day, “but halfway through our lecture on the credibility and reliability of informants,” a student from the class told ATL, “he revealed that the Roberts rumor was made up to show how someone you ordinarily think is credible and reliable (ie a law professor) can disseminate inaccurate information.

ATL postulates that this is how Radar got their erroneous scoop — by students texting and tweeting their friends — and the LA Times buys it.

I’m a bit skeptical, however.

First off, ATL now admits their time-sequence was off. Tague told his class this rumor around 9 a.m. EST, told them it was false a half hour later, and then Radar posted it on their site around 12:30 EST.

Still, Above the Law says it “stand(s) by our primary claim that this gossip arose out of Professor Peter Tague’s criminal law class at Georgetown Law, in which he tried to teach his students a lesson about the credibility and reliability of informants…”

But, as Tague himself might point out, how do they know? ATL hasn’t shown that Radar had a friend or family member in Tague’s class, nor explained why any source of Radar’s that was there would tip them off about the announcement but not tell them that it was false.

And I know Radar is a gossip site, but I still find it hard to believe they’d just run with an item fed to them by someone who’d heard it from their law professor. Maybe I’m being naive, but I hope they put a little more work into their items than that.

Isn’t it also possible that both Tague and Radar heard the same rumor independently? I have no idea if that’s what happened or not, but my point is, ATL hasn’t made its case.

“This is all speculation,” they write, “and if we’ve learned any lesson from this episode, it’s about the danger of uninformed speculation.” Indeed.

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