The New York Post has seen three of its supposed scoops about the Boston Marathon bombing fall apart this week. Nonetheless, their editor is unrepentant, lashing out at critics and claiming a "crystal ball" would have been necessary for the paper to publish accurate information.
In a widely criticized move, the April 18 Post front page featured the headline "Bag Men: Feds seek this duo pictured at Boston Marathon" along with a photo of two men holding bags at the event. The article reported that investigators had been "circulating photos of two men spotted chatting near the packed finish line" and also that officials "have identified two potential suspects who were captured on surveillance videos." The Post added that "it was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos."
The paper later reported in an online story that the two men they had featured on their front page had been "cleared."
In an email to Media Matters, Post editor Col Allan claimed that when the photo was published this morning, the article stated that the FBI was only emailing the photo to other law enforcement officials and noted "there is no direct evidence linking them to the crime."
"With regard to today's front page emails containing images of the two young men were sent to law enforcement offices, federal and state, at 3pm yesterday seeking information about them," Allan said in an e-mail. "I have a copy of one of those emails sent to a regional office of the FBI. At no point did the Post state they were 'suspects.' Today it is clear they were not involved ... had you loaned us your powerful crystal ball we would have known this before the presses ran."
But, asked specifically if placing the photos on Page One was misleading because it gave the appearance the men were somehow involved, Allan stated via email:
"Common sense would suggest if the FBI emailed pictures of these men standing around the Boston marathon to law enforcement offices asking for information about them it might be newsworthy. We made no judgment about the men. We simply reported the facts. Their photos were emailed by the feds. Information about them was sought. If it is your idea that we or anyone else in the media wait until the complete truth is clear then there is little need for journalists. Only historians. "
Allan also claimed that a previous incorrect Post report on Monday, that 12 people had died in the bombing -- which has yet to be corrected - was also not the paper's fault.
"Our sources were federal authorities who have been reliable in the past," he wrote. "In this event, they and thus we, were wrong. Later Monday our reporting online and in Tuesday's paper accurately reflected the official toll...give your crystal ball a good hard polish and drop it over sometime."
The day of the bombing, the Post also reported that a Saudi national student had been "taken into custody" and was considered a "suspect." That student was also cleared of involvement. In response to questions about that story also falling apart, Allan claimed that "The Post said a Saudi student WAS detained in hospital after the bomb blast. He was not free to go. at 2 am the following morning the federal bureau of investigation raided his flat and took away several bags of material. The next day the authorities stated he was co--operating and not considered a suspect. The post would have required one of your hindsight crystal balls to have known this."
Politico reports that when running for U.S. Senate in 1992, Fox News host Mike Huckabee called homosexuality "aberrant, unnatural and sinful." Huckabee does not appear to have changed his anti-gay rhetoric since becoming a Fox News host, comparing homosexuality to drug use and incest, claiming that same-sex marriage is a threat to a "stable society," and promoting virulently anti-gay guests.
It sure seemed that way when I first read this piece over the weekend, in which right-wing billionaire David Koch, still fuming over Jane Mayer's recent expose in The New Yorker about he and his billionaire brother are helping to fund the Tea Party movement and the larger anti-Obama insurgency, whined to the Daily Beast that Meyer's article was "hateful," ludicrous," and "plain wrong."
The sympathetic Daily Beast dispatch, written by Elaine Lafferty, did very little though, to catalog anything that was actually wrong, or inaccurate, with The New Yorker article, nor did Koch himself produce much evidence.
For instance, Koch seemed peeved that Meyer suggested the Koch brothers had been helping to bankroll the "grassroots" Tea Party movement. But note this passage [emphasis added]:
[H]e says, no one from the Tea Party movement has ever approached him for money, and when I ask him straight up if he's funding the Tea Party, all he says is, "Oh, please."
A classic non-denial denial.
Koch's whining rang a bit hollow considering that while Meyer was writing her lengthy piece, Koch repeatedly declined her interview requests. (Wonder what he was hiding.) Also, while Daily Beast allowed Koch to tee-off on Meyer's work, it provided no space for The New Yorker writer to defend her reporting.
The good news is that Daily Beast finally conceded there were problems with its Koch article, including the fact that the site failed to disclose that author Lafferty once worked as a consultant for the McCain/Palin campaign, and editors there attached a note to the end of the piece.
The bad news though, was that the article was up all weekend without any reference to the obvious flaws.
As Box Turtle Bulletin's Jim Burroway writes:
By all accounts from those who have met the reclusive Doug Coe who heads the group, Coe is a very quiet and charming man. With this New Yorker article, it is evident that [The New Yorker's Peter] Boyle has fallen for Coe's charms. Boyle describes The Family as little more than a "frat house", composed in equal parts of Democrats and Republicans, Christians and Jews. In fact, he appears to have fully bought the line about The Family not being a Christian organization at all, but merely a group of people whose sole mission is to influence powerful political and business leaders "to follow Jesus." One wonders exactly how one is supposed to define Christianity better than that, and to impose its tenets, if not its theology, from the top. Boyle's description of events in Uganda are equally naïve.
When Uganda's Parliament took up a bill last year that would have punished some homosexual acts with death, ["Family" member Bob] Hunter and his friends in the Fellowship felt they had the standing to urge the proposed measure's defeat. [Uganda President Yoweri] Museveni appointed a commission that studied the matter and then recommended that the bill be withdrawn.
One wonders how Boyle managed the dexterity to write those two lonely sentences with his hands over his ears while singing "lalalala" to drown out the noise.
Nowhere does he mention that it was MP David Bahati, a key "Family" man in Uganda — a guy who organizes Uganda's version of the National Prayer Breakfast that the Family is best known for in the U.S. — who proposed the bill, stands by it, and still insists that the bill must be passed in it entirety so that they can begin "to kill every last gay person." Boyle would have you believe that the Family was responsible for the bill being dead when in fact the bill, while stalled, is still very much alive. It is currently in committee, and MP Bahati and other Ugandan Family members continue to push for its full enactment. Others however recommend that the bill be dismembered with different provisions attached to other bills with less flag-waving titles, and passed surreptitiously.
As Metro Weekly's Chris Geidner points out, Jim Burroway and Jeff Sharlet are required reading for anyone interested in covering or learning more about the secretive group and, perhaps most notably, its ties to the horrific anti-gay activity happening in Uganda:
If you don't follow Jim Burroway and the work of the folks at Box Turtle Bulletin on Uganda's anti-gay activity -- most notably the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill -- you're missing out on one of the important stories about international inequality faced by LGBT people.
If you don't follow Jeff Sharlet's work on the Family (or the Fellowship, or the folks behind the C Street house), you're missing out on great journalism about the extraordinary influence of one religious organization in American public life.
For a primer on C Street and why this story matters, check out some segments from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show after the jump.
Fox News host Mike Huckabee sure knows how to keep it classy.
The former Arkansas Governor managed to make a crack about marriage equality and the physical appearance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Helen Thomas all in one ill-conceived attempt at humor in a forthcoming New Yorker profile. Ariel Levy writes:
At times, he seems unable to resist the force of his own funniness. I joked with him once that I would write about his (fictitious) affair with Nancy Pelosi. He e-mailed back, "The only thing worse than a torrid affair with sweet, sweet Nancy would be a torrid affair with Helen Thomas. If those were my only options, I'd probably be FOR same-sex marriage!"
From The New Yorker's November 23 profile on Glenn Beck:
If you sensed something of a quiet spell about ten days ago, a lull in the usual media storm, it may have been owing to the fact that Glenn Beck, the energetically hateful, truth-twisting radio and Fox News Channel talk-show host, was absent from the airwaves for a week, to have his appendix removed. A few days after his surgery, he made it clear, via his Twitter feed, that he hated just watching TV, which is, of course, the terrible fate of those of us who don't have talk shows. ("I know how U feel. Watching the news & knowing wht I say 2 my tv makes no difference," he wrote. "I cnt wait 2 giv U wht I think has bn going on.") By the middle of last week, he was back, breathing fire about Obama's response to the Fort Hood shootings.
A headline at the top of Beck's Web site announces what he thinks he's selling: "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment." If by this Beck means that his product is radioactive, he's got that right. We can only hope that its toxic charge will fade over time. But that seems unlikely. At the end of the Elia Kazan-Budd Schulberg movie "A Face in the Crowd," the Arkansas opportunist and petty criminal who has been repackaged, by a radio broadcaster, as a guitar-playing professional hayseed called Lonesome Rhodes (played brilliantly by Andy Griffith), and who has been consumed and ruined by fame, shows his true colors when he bad-mouths his audience over an open mike. The nation abandons him, and, as the movie ends, he's shouting, unheard, into the night. These days, because of the Internet, it's not so easy to get rid of a demagogue. Long after Beck leaves radio and TV, his sound bites will still be with us.
In a column about Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza stated that Clinton's "disingenuous remark on '60 Minutes' that [Sen. Barack] Obama was not a Muslim 'as far as I know' was especially galling." However, Lizza did not include Clinton's full comment, which made clear that she believes Obama is not a Muslim.
Supporters of the Iraq war -- rather than waiting for testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker on the effect of President Bush's troop increase in Iraq -- have engaged in a campaign to convince the media and public that progress is being made in Iraq and that the "surge" is "working." Media Matters has compiled some of the most pervasive myths and falsehoods advanced by opponents of withdrawal in service of the "surge is working" message, which many in the media have been complicit in perpetuating.
In a New Yorker profile of Rudy Giuliani, Peter Boyer uncritically reported that "Giuliani speaks often of his own expertise on terrorism" and asserted that he "performed well on September 11th." He added: "The common refrain among New Yorkers" is that "Giuliani showed leadership on the day of the terrorist attacks." However, Boyer did not mention that Giuliani's performance before, during, and after the attacks has been questioned and criticized.