Chris Mortensen: Didn’t Correct False Deflategate Report Because He Still Hasn’t Figured Out Twitter
ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen is getting some heat for the way he initially handled Deflategate. It appears that Mortensen was used as a conduit for at least one NFL official with a vendetta to smear the Patriots as the scandal broke (many speculate that the source for Mortensen's "11 balls, two pounds under-inflated" tweet came courtesy of Mike Kensil, the NFL vice president of game operations and former Jets executive), which calls into question the credibility of both the league office and ESPN as a media outlet.
Mortensen has recently refused to address the issue, cancelling an appearance on WEEI when the station promoted the spot as such. But he did go on The Dan Le Batard Show yesterday, and gave a number of unsatisfying answers to the questions raised here, including floating the idea that, after sending out over 19,000 tweets in his career, he still didn't know how Twitter worked.
MassLive has a long and full transcript of the audio, but here are the most salient bits:
On how he got "11 balls, two pounds under-inflated" -- which was completely incorrect:
...I'm getting ready to go to Arizona for the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, which we happen to have on ESPN, and all I can tell you is my inquiry was focused just like this with somebody on the night I was looking forward to leaving the next morning to get out of the winter and into the sun. (The inquiry) was, 'How many footballs are we talking about here? Three or four?' And what came back to me was 11. And that was a significant number. That was my focus. Because quite frankly, I didn't even know what the PSI regulations were at that time, but when I heard 11 footballs were under inflated, then I got on the phone and talked to three different people and one of them said...11 footballs was consistently verified, as it was in the Wells Report, by the way. The PSI level, one of my sources said 'two pounds under.' And another said 'significantly under inflated.' I used both those terms. Two pounds under and significantly under inflated. Who those sources are will forever remain in my confidence."
On correcting that misinformation:
"What needs to be corrected has been corrected. I didn't correct it on Twitter, which was a mistake by the way. Twitter, I'm still trying to figure it out. The bottom line is, as the Wells Report showed, there were not 11 balls that were all two PSI under the 12.5 minimum requirement. Now let me say this: And I've done this before. I can understand after reading the Wells Report, because we had silence for three months, that could somebody generalize two pounds under based on the range of 12.5 to 13.5? Yeah, they could have. Now that's my job to do a better vetting job as a journalist. But let me ask you this question: If I had simply reported, which I did include in the original report, that 11 footballs were found to be significantly under inflated, what would the reaction have been? The same, I think.
On whether he was lied to:
"...I think there was some inaccurate data at the time that was passed on to me, but I also talked to other sources who verified the number that I was focused on. The number of footballs. Eleven was a significant number, and 'significantly underinflated' was a significant description. And so therefore do I feel betrayed? No. And by the way, this whole concept of being deliberately lied to, that means somebody called me up. When anybody calls me up and volunteers significant information, I always get suspicious of motive. That's a red flag right there. As I said you go through that process and you review your own work. And I've done that."
On the possibility of retracting the original story:
"I already had changed the descriptive tone. And I did with our news desk, pretty early, to 'significantly underinflated.' And I will never retract that. The two pounds PSI, that was obviously an error and clarified and corrected. If you want to call it a retraction...what I didn't do was retract it on Twitter. And that was probably technically a mistake."
So there you have it: Mortensen corrected his original story, which he did a fair amount of work to corroborate, except on Twitter, which he still doesn't understand. That would all check out if:
a) Mortensen's story on the ESPN website from Jan. 21 still says 11 balls were under-inflated by two pounds.
b) He didn't undercut his own "I worked hard to verify this story" narrative by talking about how he wanted to get some sun in Arizona.
c) He wasn't a prolific user of Twitter, rendering his "technologically out of touch dad" routine useless.
All in all, an incredibly unsatisfying explanation and clearly a man who does not want to admit he's a part of this story, like it or not. We all make mistakes, Mort. We all get duped. No shame in admitting it. But you have to do that eventually if you want us to trust you again.
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