Twitter Rumor Sparks Political Feud Over Debt Ceiling Deadline

By Erin Harrison June 29, 2011

Twitter has frequently been used as ground for dumping fuel on the proverbial fire, and, alas, the flames are ablaze. This time, the firestorm is about the deadline to raise the debt ceiling before the government defaults on its debt, a controversy sparked by a Reuters columnist saying it moved from early August to August 22.

The rumor has caused friction between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill (as if we needed any more of that), as the debt ceiling will likely run out of room later this summer.

According to a report in The Atlantic Wire, “the confusion began yesterday afternoon when Reuters columnist James Pethokoukis fired off a tweet saying that the deadline for raising the debt ceiling wasn’t actually a deadline at all.”

Pethokoukis’ June 28 tweet said, “Developing: Treasury may move back debt-ceiling deadline to Aug. 22.”

But Treasury spokeswoman Colleen Murray retorted, “It is unlikely that the date will move by more than a day or two – if at all,” according to the report.

In no time, “phones lit up in Washington and Wall Street,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

It’s clear to see the power Twitter has in a case like this. According to the Journal, “the rumor was quickly picked up by Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.), one of the chief negotiators of a deficit-reduction package.”

Then at 4 p.m., the National Review Online posted a brief saying Kyl told reporters “that he’s been informed the Treasury Department will soon announce that the August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling will be pushed back several weeks.”

Murray tells the Journal that the Treasury Department will provide an update on the debt ceiling outlook at the beginning of July, adding that it is unlikely that the date will move “by more than a day or two – if at all.”

Rumor mongers: Put that in your Twitter pipe, and smoke it.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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