More on the NYT's Guantanamo debacleJune 8, 2009 10:11 AM EDT ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
Public editor Clark Hoyt pretty much eviscerated Times editors yesterday over a deeply flawed A1 exclusive that ran on May 21, about a Pentagon report that claimed 1 in 7 detainees returned to jihad activities. The scoop ran the very same day former VP Dick Cheney made his very public speech attacking the Obama administration's national security, and specifically its plan to close down the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Here's what Hoyt wrote:
The article on which he based that statement was seriously flawed and greatly overplayed. It demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically. The lapse is especially unfortunate at The Times, given its history in covering the run-up to the Iraq war.
But two points are worth considering in the wake of Hoyt's smack-down. When critics raised concerns in real time about the Times scoop, an array of newspaper editors insisted there was no need for a correction, even though editors themselves had gone ahead and changed the content of the article online, and even though the reporter who wrote the piece went on cable TV and seemed to undercut the thrust of the scoop. Editors were insistent: no correction was needed.
It seems that only when Hoyt began asking questions did editors belatedly amend their position. And not so coincidentally, the Times ran a formal correction to the story just one day before Hoyt lowered the boom.
The second point is that Times editors want readers to believe that the leaked Pentagon report, which perfectly buttressed Cheney's critique of the Obama White House, just happen to run on the same morning of Cheney's nationally televised address. That it was just some wacky coincidence that the Times' source finally agreed to leak the pro-Cheney report at the very same time that Cheney made headlines attacking the Obama White House as being soft on detainees.
And who was the source? "An official who believed the report should be released," according to Hoyt's reporting.
As Hoyt's headline asked, "What Happened to Skepticism?"
BTW, without revealing who the "official" was who leaked the report, the Times and Hoyt could have shed more light on the official's motivation by telling readers more about him/her. Was the "official" at the Pentagon? Did he/she work closely with Cheney?