In a flawed correction and a new report, The New York Times continued to misrepresent congressional proposals on port security in the wake of a proposed agreement that would allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to control port terminals in six major U.S. cities.
In a flawed correction and a new report, The New York Times continued to misrepresent congressional proposals on port security in the wake of a proposed agreement that would allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to control port terminals in six major U.S. cities. The Times falsely reported on February 28 that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) proposed barring all foreign companies from operating port terminals, then failed to identify that mistake in a March 2 correction to the article. The Times then falsely reported on March 3 that House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) proposed limiting the prohibition to companies owned by foreign governments. In fact, it was the Democratic senators who had proposed limiting the prohibition to companies owned by foreign governments, and it is Hunter who has said he will propose the more extensive ban on all foreign companies.
On March 2, the Times issued the correction to the February 28 article, written by reporters Carl Hulse and David E. Sanger, that had distorted the proposal by Clinton and Menendez to prohibit companies owned or controlled by foreign governments from operating U.S. port terminals. The correction stated -- falsely -- that the error related to the article's suggestion that the bill would apply only to companies owned by foreign governments when it would actually also impact any company controlled by a foreign government:
Correction: Mar. 2, 2006, Thursday:
An article on Tuesday about concerns raised by the Coast Guard over the deal with Dubai Ports World referred incorrectly to legislation proposed by two Democratic Senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. It would ban companies controlled by foreign governments -- not those owned by them -- from taking over operations at American ports. (The Dubai company is controlled by the emir of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates.)
But the Times misstated its original error. While the proposed legislation would indeed affect companies that are either "owned or controlled by foreign governments," the Times' error was in falsely reporting that the Clinton-Menendez legislation would prohibit all "foreign-owned companies" -- not just those owned by foreign governments -- from controlling operations at U.S. ports, as Media Matters for America documented at the time.
Then, in the March 3 article by Hulse and fellow reporter Heather Timmons, the Times compounded its original error by reporting that Hunter's proposal would "force foreign governments to relinquish ownership of critical installations," including port terminals:
In the House, Representative Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would introduce a bill to force foreign governments to relinquish ownership of critical installations.
Mr. Hunter said Dubai's record on handling nuclear materials and other weaponry disqualified it from having one of its state-owned businesses operating port terminals.
"Their track record is terrifying," he said.
But other news organizations have reported that Hunter's proposal -- unlike the one put forth by Clinton and Menendez -- would apply to all foreign companies, not just those owned or controlled by foreign governments. These include Reuters, Knight Ridder, and the Los Angeles Times. Reuters quoted Hunter telling reporters: "Any foreign companies that own critical infrastructure would be required to divest so it's owned by Americans."