Following Newsweek's May 16 retraction of its May 9 article that cited an anonymous source to report that U.S. investigators found evidence that interrogators at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a Quran down a toilet, conservative anchors and pundits on cable news and talk radio repeatedly praised the reputation of the story's primary reporter, Michael Isikoff, and blamed the lapse on the magazine's editors. This defense of Isikoff may be related to his investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex scandal, during which, as Media Matters noted, Isikoff relied extensively on unreliable sources.
Conservatives praised Isikoff and defended his work ...
- Ed Rogers, Republican consultant:
ROGERS: Hey, I don't know what can be done, but a lot of damage has been inflicted, and so there's going to be a lot of hue and cry here in Washington. There's going to be calls for investigations. There's going to be calls for reform. But who knows what's going to happen? I mean, the next shoe to drop -- but it never will, because they won't reveal their source -- but was this just an opponent of the administration trying to make life difficult that made up this story and that gave it to Newsweek? Now, the reporter that wrote this is actually a big-time pro, who I don't think could be deceived. But nonetheless, it has real consequences, and it's done real harm, so there ought to be a real inquiry into this. [CNN's Crossfire, 5/16/05]
- Brit Hume, Fox News Washington managing editor:
HUME: This is Michael Isikoff, the veteran investigative journalist, a guy we all know, who has been on this program, somebody who has compiled a pretty good record over the years. [Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, 5/16/05]
- Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard executive editor:
BARNES: He's a very honorable reporter. [Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, 5/16/05]
... and then shifted the blame to Newsweek's editors and management:
- L. Brent Bozell III, Media Research Center president, and Sean Hannity, ABC radio and Fox News host:
BOZELL: One would be hard-pressed to lay the blame directly at the feet of Michael Isikoff. Michael Isikoff is also the reporter who broke the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky story for Newsweek magazine.
HANNITY: Yeah. I wouldn't mind putting Isikoff on and getting his take on this, and I don't want to rush on the Isikoff-bashing bandwagon here because if I had to bet dollars for donuts, he probably told them, "I have a story, I have a source, I'm not ready to go with it yet, but I'm writing it out and we gotta investigate it." And they probably just said, "Hey, great! Let's run with it!" [ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, 5/16/05]
- Hannity, on his Fox News show:
HANNITY: By the way, I don't think it's Isikoff. I think it's the people above him, just for the record, Bill [Press, guest]. They make the decision, not Isikoff. He doesn't decide what gets in that magazine. [Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, 5/16/05]
- Robert D. Novak, CNN host:
NOVAK: [I]sn't this the kind of a story that a responsible media executive would have said, I know what it's like in the world today. I know what it's like in Islam. We shouldn't run this story. [CNN's Crossfire, 5/16/05]
Finally, MSNBC host Chris Matthews (though not on Fox News nor a self-identified conservative) similarly praised Isikoff:
MATTHEWS: Well, Newsweek is going to have to catch up to the [Washington] Post. Anyway, thank you very much. Isikoff, by the way, is one hell of a reporter. I hate to see this happen to him. What a great reporter he is. He's been on the tail of a lot of people in this town. [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, 5/16/05]