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Anatomy of a Rumor: The Story Behind Chief Justice John Roberts’s ‘Retirement’

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tekisui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 10:11 AM
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Anatomy of a Rumor: The Story Behind Chief Justice John Roberts’s ‘Retirement’
Source: Above the Law

Everyone is wondering: Where did that erroneous rumor of an imminent retirement by Chief Justice John Roberts come from? The gossip spread like wildfire, triggering thousands of texts, blog posts, and emails — a few hundred of them to the ATL tips line — before Radar, which first published the rumor, retracted its report.

We were skeptical, which is one reason why we didn’t write about the gossip as quickly as some other outlets. We reached out to the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office after we heard the rumor, and we didn’t want to write about it until we heard back from the PIO (or at least gave them a little time to respond).

Of course, we have many Supreme Court sources other than the official ones — and they reacted with extreme skepticism when we ran the Radar report by them. One of our SCOTUS experts actually laughed out loud after we (sheepishly) asked, “Have you heard anything about a possible Roberts retirement?” This source noted that JGR would sooner die — literally — than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.

Like many a promising legal career, the Roberts resignation rumor traces its origins to a 1L class at Georgetown University Law Center….

Here’s an account of what went down in Professor Peter Tague’s criminal law class this morning, from a 1L at Georgetown Law:


Today’s class was partially on the validity of informants not explaining their sources. started off class at around 9 am EST by telling us not to tell anyone, but that we might find it interesting that tomorrow, Roberts would be announcing his retirement for health concerns. He refused to tell anyone how he knew. Then, at around 9:30, he let everyone in on the joke.


Note the timestamps on the Radar posts. The first one came out at 6:10 a.m., i.e., the Pacific Time equivalent of 9:10 a.m. Eastern time. The retraction came out at 6:36 a.m., i.e., the Pacific Time equivalent of 9:36 a.m. Eastern — shortly after Professor Tague let his class in on the joke.

A second Georgetown Law student confirms that Professor Tague’s class was probably where the Roberts resignation rumor got started:

Our criminal justice professor started our 9 am lecture with the news that roberts will be resigning tomorrow for health reasons — that he could not handle the administrative burdens of the job. He would not say how he knows — but halfway through our lecture on the credibility and reliability of informants 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.


By then the horse was out of the barn — and running at a gallop:

(B)etween the hour when the class began and when he revealed that he made it up, plenty of students texted and IM’ed their friends and family…. there’s a very good chance that the Roberts rumor that spread like wildfire on the internet was sparked by an eccentric law professor trying to make a point.


more: http://abovethelaw.com/2010/03/the_backstory_of_the_john_roberts_retirement_rumor.php
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formercia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 10:20 AM
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1. I guess he made his point. n/t
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Maru Kitteh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 10:32 AM
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2. One law class...LOL.. But twitter is such a reliable news outlet!
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tekisui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 10:58 AM
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3. Twitter without links to credible news sites is nothing but
rumor. It is a good consolidator of news, and to find information when something is breaking.

As for a reliable source for original stories, forget it.
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mikelgb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 11:19 AM
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4. I guess we were all in that professor's class for a day.
Edited on Fri Mar-05-10 11:19 AM by mikelgb
good lesson
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Froward69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 11:23 AM
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5. Just a tease
I find it actually quite remarkable that the rumor spreadout of the classroom via electronic media before the point of the lecture actually became clear... it is awesome that the L1 student(s) proved the professors point without ever leaving the classroom.

"a Good rumor goes around the world twice, before the truth gets out of the garage." that was one of my professors statements (rings true today, 20 years on.)
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pleah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-05-10 11:29 AM
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6. I'm just bummed it wasn't true. n/t
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