The end of The Great Muffin Myth

Republicans and their news outlets have been heavily invested recently in recent weeks in pushing a silly little story: the notion that the Justice Department paid for $16 muffins at a conference. Kevin Drum keeps trying to tell people it’s not true, but the story keeps spreading.

It’s probably too late to push back against the urban legend — these things often take on a life of their own — but for anyone who cares about reality, the myth has now officially been debunked.

[I]t turns out the story wasn’t quite right. Hilton Worldwide fired back, claiming that $16 was in fact the price for a continental breakfast, complete with coffee, fruit, and juice. In a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) — who had called for an explanation — Justice Dept. officials wrote that if their accusers had examined all the receipts they would have found the actual price was $14.29 per person per day, and included breakfast and rental fees for the workshop space and conference rooms.

Not a bad deal at all, especially in downtown Washington. “If you’re talking D.C., you certainly can’t have any basic continental breakfast for $16,” says Krista Minitelli, president of Hudson Event Group, which plans conferences around the country. “A very basic breakfast is at least $25 — and they just have bread and coffee, maybe fruit. In New York, a continental breakfast is in the thirties.” Minitelli called the prices cited in the government audit — including $1 per ounce for hotel coffee — “absolutely standard.” In a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek on Tuesday, the chastened Inspector General’s office conceded that it might not have been in possession of all the facts. “Since our report was issued, the Capital Hilton has stated that other food and beverage items, such as coffee, tea, and fruit, were included in the charged amount.”

There’s certainly room for a conversation about convention expenses and whether the Justice Department has ever overpaid to feed attendees.

But regardless of what you may have heard, taxpayers never paid for $16 muffins. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who called for someone in the DOJ to lose their job over this, can relax.