Georgetown Law professor starts Justice John Roberts retirement rumor

Yesterday at about 9 a.m., Georgetown Law Center professor Peter Tague told a class of law students that Chief Justice John Roberts would announce his resignation today due to health reasons, although he refused to tell them how he knew. Within the hour, he revealed that he had completely fabricated the rumor as part of his lesson on credibility and reliable sources.

But by then, the ‘news’ that Roberts was stepping down had already been run by Radar and picked up by the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.

“[B]etween the hour when the class began and when he revealed that he made it up, plenty of students texted and IMed their friends and family,” a student in his class told blog Above The Law. “[So] 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.”

Vox is just as disappointed as the next journalist-windbag that two major news outlets headlined with such a poorly-sourced story. But what fascinates us even more was the speed with which this made it onto Radar. Above The Law looked at the timestamp on the Radar post and found that astoundingly, it took only ten minutes for the rumor to leave Tague’s mouth and wind up on their site.

Via Above The Law

10 Comments on “Georgetown Law professor starts Justice John Roberts retirement rumor

  1. I think this professor should be censured for such an outrageous falsehood. This is not humorous and perhaps he needs psychiatric help to find out why he needed to say such a thing to a classroom of bright young people.
    Perhaps he is the one that should retire due to mental instability!

  2. This professor lacks the ability to teach without inciteful falsehoods. What a poor example of a Georgetown professor. My daughter is a Georgetown graduate and I am sure is horrified that this professor told such a story for effect. He needs to be censured! or perhaps he is the one who needs help.

  3. ^ Really? He’s been doing this for years. Perhaps, Susan, you should read up on all the stories about this exercise before you react and start calling for “psychiatric help.” The blame lays with 2 people: 1) The student who emailed the information out b/c he or she thought this was “scoop” and 2) RadarOnline for being a terrible gossip rag.

    The professor’s well liked by most of his students. He teaches courses in Professional Responsibility. This was an exercise about how you shouldn’t trust everything you hear. Especially when it’s not listed on any other news source. GU 1Ls would not be the first to learn of Roberts’ retirement.

  4. The blame “lies.” Sorry. Too much reading.

  5. It’d be nice if the students got an F for this assignment and a firm dressing-down.

  6. This is… my section, my course, and my professor. What a day. It continues to get more bizarre as more and more media attention is focused on us.

    Susan, Prof. Tague is not in need of psychiatric help. He’s a fantastic professor, and this was a great way to make a point. He has apparently done this year after year, and one idiot in my class ruined it for everyone.

    Chris, this wasn’t an assignment. This was a statement made in class, then discussed and debunked slightly later in the class. I firmly expect a lengthy lecture about this, and the class definitely deserves a lecture. However, law school is not graded on the basis of assignments, it’s usually graded on one final at the end of a course. There’s no way you could fairly fail (or even dock points from) 120 students based on the actions of one or a handful at most. The vast majority of us kept our mouths shut, even those of us with media contacts. I have contacts, as do a number of my friends, and none of us said a word.

  7. “Vox is just as disappointed as the next journalist-windbag that two major news outlets headlined with such a poorly-sourced story.”
    That’s ironic, since this paper has made a habit out of doing just that. The feature story in the current issue uses a blog as its source for economic statistics for crying out loud. Here’s another example:
    “The Free Unclassified box of the Voice’s April 26, 2007 issue featured a sentence indicating that certain staff at Vital Vittles unofficially recorded details about purchasers of pregnancy tests. The management of the Corp denies that this has ever happened. This item was unsourced, and thus should not have been printed in our magazine. We retract that statement and apologize for printing it.”
    That was back when the Voice ran corrections. They don’t even bother with that anymore.

  8. this is a brother in law of my cousin’s. He started the rumor to teach class how rumors get started and affect law.

  9. The professor did not start a rumor. He mentioned a ‘fact’ to a class of students in class, and then corrected it minutes later, still in class. The lesson was “I’m a trustworthy source in general, you believed me without any corroborative facts, now you’re finding out I misled you. This is how easy it can be for a regular informant to mislead the police,” and it was a valid lesson for a course on that very subject. The student who, in class, immediately began texting/emailing/whatevering this information was spreading an uncorroborated rumor. In all fairness, Tague is an older man and while he allows laptops in class (like most professors) he probably does not expect students to be in communicative contact with the outside world during the lectures. While this is unfortunately an unreasonable expectation, he should be able to be justified in it. This student’s actions were unwise, but between her and whoever she contacted. Whoever contacted the media was rash and unjustified in doing so with no basis to believe the story. The ‘news source’ who ran a story without any checking up at all is the only party heere who failed a duty of theirs.

  10. Pingback: Bitter News, 3-24-10 | Bitter Lawyer

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