Jewish World Review May 27, 2005/ 18 Iyar,
Newsweek Magazine's unsubstantiated reporting of the desecration of a terrorist prisoner's Koran by an American guard sparked outrage, rioting and killings by Muslims. When the Newsweek story turned out not to be true, the magazine at first denied any wrongdoing whatsoever. Only after it became apparent to the entire journalistic world that they totally messed up did Newsweek finally apologize and admit that what they printed they could not show to be true. Hmmm. Kinda reminds me of another story last year by a news organization called CBS and reported by a fellow by the name of Dan Rather.
Dan Rather claimed he had documented proof that President Bush shirked his Texas National Guard duties the only problem was, those "documents" turned out to be bogus. Just like Newsweek, CBS and Rather also denied any wrongdoing at first and only sort of, kind of, owned up to their "mistake" after the rest of the world started laughing at them.
Even now, Rather still says that just because those particular "documents" may not have been real, it doesn't mean that the story itself wasn't true. In other words, just because Rather can't PROVE that Bush did anything wrong, it doesn't mean that he didn't do anything wrong. Now, that's great journalistic reasoning, isn't it?
By that logic, just because I can't PROVE that Dan Rather beats his wife, that doesn't mean that he doesn't beat her. Or just because I can't PROVE that Dan Rather is clinically an imbecile, that doesn't mean he isn't, either.
Well, Newsweek has seemingly taken a page out of the CBS/Rather playbook (undoubtedly entitled, "How to Weasel Out of a Lying Story without Admitting That the Story is a Lie") with the following interview given to Arab and Iranian Television.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. The following are excerpts translated by MEMRI from a May 19, 2005 interview on Al-Jazeera TV with Newsweek's Washington bureau chief Daniel Klaidman, about Newsweek's recent report on alleged Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay.
Al-Jazeera Interviews Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief on Allegations of Koran Desecration: "We are Neutral on Whether Any of This Ever Happened"
Klaidman: "Well, first of all, marhaba to you, Hafez. I'm glad to have the opportunity to talk to you and to your audience. We have said on many occasions now, since we published this story more than two weeks ago we made a mistake. We made an error in this short item, and the error was that we reported a specific act of Koran desecration and furthermore, we reported that this was confirmed by the SouthCom investigators, the U.S. military investigators. We were relying on a source on whom we had relied who we had relied on before. He a very senior government official provided us with accurate information a very senior government official and it turned out that he was wrong, and that he remembered it differently, and so we did not have the information we needed to put that aspect of the story. We did a lot of research after we realized we might have a problem and we concluded that we made a mistake, and we did what you do in those instances: We came back, we said we made a mistake, we tried to be as transparent as possible, to explain how it happened, for our readers and for the public, and so that we learn the lessons from what happened and in the future, we won't make these kinds of mistakes.
"It's important for me to say that we don't talk in any great detail about our sources. That is something that is an important part of the reporting process. We have to protect the anonymity of our source because we made an agreement of confidentiality with this person. But when we realized there might be problems with this story, and when the Pentagon raised questions about it, we went back to our source, and we asked could this person be sure of what he told us in the first instance and he said he couldn't. There were elements of what he had said to us that he could not be sure about: where he read it, if it was in this Southern Command report or in any other investigative documents that were related, whether it had been confirmed, or if it was an allegation. And so, based on the fact that he could not be as precise as he was when we first talked to him and that he could not be sure about some of the information he provided us, and also the denials from the Defense Department, which, of course, we factored in, we concluded that we did not have the information that we needed to make the assertion that we did in this item that this had happened."
Klaidman: "We are neutral on whether any form of Koran desecration took place. There are allegations out there, but the allegations have not been subjected to the kind of scrutiny or legal processes that normally are… [that] you need before you can establish whether they are true, and we certainly know that the military has not confirmed any of these allegations. And so what we are saying is we did not have the information we needed to go forward with this story and we are also saying that this specific act of Koran desecration was not confirmed by the U.S. military investigators, and that is what we reported. As to whether these things happened or not, we are, like the rest of the people out there and news organizations we don't know. We have heard the allegations, we continue to report, and the U.S. military and other entities are investigating, and as I said, we are neutral on whether any of this ever happened."
In other words, just because Newsweek can't PROVE that the Koran was desecrated doesn't mean that it wasn't. Right. And just because I can't PROVE that Newsweek reporters are biased anti-military leftists, that doesn't mean that they're not. And just because I can't PROVE that Newsweek will do everything in its power to disgrace and embarrass President Bush, that doesn't mean that they don't.
(Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request by contacting:
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837
Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.