May 19th, 2005 · Categories: Uncategorized · No Comments

Politics: Isikoff says "the Pentagon nade me do it!"

I always thought that reporters and their editors (and ultimately their publishers) were responsible for verifying their stories. Not according to Michael Isikoff, whose shoddy journalism led directly to the rioting in Afghanistan that left 17 dead.

The facts are not in dispute. Newsweek ran a false story that was based on an anonymous source’s flawed recollection of a report he thought he saw. The writer, Michael Isikoff, did not bother to verify the report. If he had, he might have learned that report was unreliable. Outrage among Muslims worldwide – and in Afghanistan in particular – left 17 dead. Newsweek has since retracted the story and apologized for its error. Not surprisingly, it shows no interest in holding Isikoff responsible.

As CBS News demonstrated with Dan Rather’s forged documents, star reporters are permitted to ignore standards and abuse the privileges granted them by the First Amendment – at least as long it makes the Bush Administration look bad. (It is worth noting that Newsweek is owned by the notoriously biased Washington Post.)

But even Dan Rather showed enough integrity to admit that someone at CBS should have paid a little more attention to checking its facts. Not so Michael Isikoff. According to him, it was the Pentagon’s fault that Newsweek published its deadly fabrication. According to several published reports (i.e. here and here, Isikoff told the New York Times that “Neither Newsweek nor the Pentagon foresaw that a reference to the desecration of the Koran was going to create the kind of response that it did.”

What an astonishing statement! I don’t know about Isikoff, but I would guess that most sentient beings are aware that Americans – and American military personnel in particular – are not widely loved in the Muslim world. Some of us have even heard that Muslim clerics routinely accuse the United States of waging a “war on Islam”. Yet Isikoff claims that he simply never imagined that his story about flushing a copy of the Qur’an down a toilet might provoke some kind of negative reaction among Muslims. I suppose to a “journalist” trying to weasel out of his gross incompetence, the Ignorant Option was more attractive than the Irresponsible Option.

But it was not enough for Isikoff to claim blind ignorance. Isikoff went on to blame the Pentagon for not checking his facts for him: “The Pentagon saw the item before it ran, and then they didn’t move us off it for 11 days afterward.” There was no obligation for anyone at Newsweek to verify the story; that was the Pentagon’s job. Apparently Isikoff’s sole responsibility was to gather some rumors, shape them into a story, and wait for someone to tell him he was wrong. Is this the standard the Newsweek and the Washington Post embrace? Yes. Along with CBS News and much of the “mainstream” media.

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