Steve Forbes: D'Souza's Anti-Colonial Claims Are 'Right On'

››› ››› JOE STRUPP

Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, defended the controversial article by Dinesh D'Souza that wrongly reported numerous facts, has drawn criticism from even one Forbes columnist, and required two corrections after the fact.

Speaking to Media Matters for America late Thursday, Forbes said the article's essential analysis was correct and the post-publication corrections were not a big deal.

"I think that the analysis was right on, which is why we ran the piece," Forbes told me via phone. "We took all of the stuff the White House complained about and found that most of it was baseless. There were only two minor things that were fact-based, the rest of it was interpretation. We fact-checked it and found most of their complaints were spin."

At issue was D'Souza's claim in the Sept. 9 cover story that President Obama's policies should be understood as a manifestation of his African father's "hatred of the colonial system." Forbes had said it "stands by the story" and that "no facts are in contention," but D'Souza's article contains numerous falsehoods and distortions that Media Matters has revealed.

Forbes issues two corrections after the article was published, stating:

Correction: Dinesh D'Souza writes that on June 15, 2010, Obama gave a speech in response to the BP oil spill that was "focused not on cleanup strategies but rather on the fact that Americans 'consume more than 20% of the world's oil but have less than 2% of the world's resources.'" D'Souza slightly misquoted the President who said, "2% of the world's oil reserves." In addition, Obama's speech did discuss concrete measures to investigate the oil spill and bring it under control.

Steve Forbes said the magazine stands by the assertion that President Obama had supported offshore drilling in Brazil, noted in this passage from the story:

The Administration supports offshore drilling--but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama's backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro--not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.

Forbes told me: "They said the White House had nothing to do with it. The White House would not stop it while the president took a very skeptical view of it in the U.S. If they wanted to stop Brazil, they could have. If BP had done it, they would have stopped it."

Media Matters has reported that this is false, while a New York Times story on Sept. 24 also found discrepancies, reporting:

One of the most contentious points in Mr. D'Souza's article was his citation of a transaction by the Export-Import Bank of the United States to finance offshore drilling in Brazil, a deal Mr. D'Souza believes indicates Mr. Obama is more concerned with helping countries that formerly were the domains of colonial powers, rather than Americans.

A Forbes fact checker recently contacted the bank to check on the assertion that Mr. Obama supported the 2009 transaction with Petrobras, Brazil's state-owned oil company. Mr. D'Souza asserted that Mr. Obama supported the deal, "not so oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil."

A note written by Kevin Varney, the senior vice president and chief of staff of the bank, and posted in the comments section of Mr. D'Souza's blog -- and verified by a spokesman for the bank -- criticized Mr. D'Souza for not contacting the bank before publication.

"I received a call yesterday from Nathan Verdi, a fact checker at Forbes, who was calling to fact check your article after it was published. (Is this how journalism works now?)"

Steve Forbes, meanwhile, said the story had been properly reviewed beforehand and any follow up corrections were not major.

"We had gone over it beforehand and then the White House made a big hoopla about it. We said we would take their points and see what was there and it turns out there was no 'there' there," he said of the White House complaints. "There were two corrections, when he went to Pakistan and the speech he made about offshore drilling and berating BP."

Forbes even indirectly blamed the White House for all of the controversy, saying the Obama Administration should have ignored it.

"Those were the only two things," he said of the corrections. "The thing to put in perspective is to look at The New York Times each day and how many corrections they run, hundreds a year. The White House could not answer the analysis, the thrust of the author. It is not surprising partisans are going to attack it. I was a little surprised the White House did not ignore it, they helped give life to the story. Thank you Robert Gibbs."

Asked if he would use D'Souza again in the future, Forbes stated: "Oh yeah, he is very good, a very good analyzer and we've had stories form him before in the past."

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