May 24th, 2005 · Categories: Uncategorized · No Comments

Politics: Isikoff still doesn’t get It

On the Charlie Rose Show, Michael Isikoff continued his self-serving spin, evading responsibility for his article’s effects and writing off the long-term harm to Newsweek as nothing more than “a blip”. Sigh. He’s probably right.

Michael Isikoff appeared on the Charlie Rose Show to discuss – and apparently defend – the shoddy reporting in his now-infamous Newsweek article. Newsweek’s owner, the Washington Post reported that Isikoff admitted he had “dropped the ball by not properly corroborating his anonymous source.” In his tepid mea culpa, he acknowledged only “the possibility that his article, which has been blamed for violent protests in Muslim countries, may have spurred riots.” Isikoff reportedly told Rose, “It was terrible what happened…. Even if it was just a little bit that we contributed to the violence that went on over there, that was awful, terrible.” Just a little bit? Consider what Newsweek itself said about the “contribution” Isikoff’s article made to the violence:

By the end of the week, the rioting had spread from Afghanistan throughout much of the Muslim world, from Gaza to Indonesia. Mobs shouting “Protect our Holy Book!” burned down government buildings and ransacked the offices of relief organizations in several Afghan provinces. The violence cost at least 15 lives, injured scores of people and sent a shudder through Washington, where officials worried about the stability of moderate regimes in the region.

The spark was apparently lit at a press conference held on Friday, May 6, by Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricket legend and strident critic of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Brandishing a copy of that week’s NEWSWEEK (dated May 9), Khan read a report that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo prison had placed the Qur’an on toilet seats and even flushed one. “This is what the U.S. is doing,” exclaimed Khan, “desecrating the Qur’an.” His remarks, as well as the outraged comments of Muslim clerics and Pakistani government officials, were picked up on local radio and played throughout neighboring Afghanistan. Radical Islamic foes of the U.S.-friendly regime of Hamid Karzai quickly exploited local discontent with a poor economy and the continued presence of U.S. forces, and riots began breaking out last week.

Isikoff again blamed the Pentagon for his failure to verify the story’s accuracy. According the Post story, Isikoff and co-author John Berry “had provided the article in full to a senior Defense Department official. The official asked for a change of wording on a separate issue, but said nothing about the details concerning the Quran.” Isikoff went on to explain that they had provided the article for review “as a precaution.” Maybe Isikoff has since figured out that his abysmal judgment (or laziness, or desire to embarrass the Bush Administration) wasn’t much of a precaution after all. Responsible journalist that he his, he did confess that he and Berry “had erred by not getting positive corroboration on each point in the article by the Pentagon official.”

Oh. They “erred.” Well, no big deal, I guess. According to Isikoff, more anti-American hatred and a few dead rioters won’t affect Newsweek much. “I think it has clearly done some temporary damage,” he said. “It’s thrown us off our game for a little bit,” he said. “I think this will end up being a blip.”

Off their game. That flippant remark says more about Isikoff – his hubris, his arrogance, his refusal to accept responsibility for the immeasurable damage he has done – than anything anyone else could possibly say.

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