WaPo Admits Its Koch Reporting Is Wrong, but Claims ‘It’s Complicated’

Charles and David Koch

Charles and David Koch / AP

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UPDATE 11:30 A.M.: The Washington Post has amended its story with the following weakly worded correction:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece said Koch Industries was the largest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands. On a net acreage basis the company is the largest American and foreign holder of leases in the region, but it might narrowly trail two Canadian companies overall.

The Washington Post on Monday compiled a series of figures showing that Koch Industries is not the largest holder of mineral leases in Canada’s “oil sands,” contradicting prior reporting by the paper.

Rather than correcting its initial story, the Post ran the numbers under the headline, “Does Koch Industries hold most Canadian oil sands leases? It’s complicated.”

Critics of the initial Post report, which stated flatly that Koch is “the biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands,” have pointed out that it is not, in fact, complicated: according to the Post’s own reporting, its March 20 story was wrong.

Reporters Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, authors of the inaccurate report on Koch’s oil sands holdings, admitted in a Monday piece that publicly available data contradicts their reporting, but moved the goalposts from “biggest lease holder” to “biggest foreign lease holder.”

“Further reporting has indicated that Koch Industries on a net acreage basis is the largest American and foreign holder of leases in Canada’s oil sands but it might narrowly trail two Canadian companies overall,” Mufson and Eilperin wrote.

The story includes lease data from “the Alberta provincial energy department, corporations’ annual information forms, information from a mapping firm called GeoScout, data from a Calgary-based exploration services firm called Divestco Geomatics and interviews with industry analysts and executives,” they wrote.

Based on that data, the reporters compiled this list of acreage ownership:

Cenovus Energy (Canada) 1.57 million

Athabasca Oil Corp. (Canada) 1.56 million

Koch (U.S.) 1.12 million to 1.47 million

Canadian Natural Resources (Canada) 1 million

Suncor (Canada) 986,000