...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

May 15, 2005

Newsweek Death Toll Continues To Rise

CNN has a new partner in the ranks of journalistic infamy. Both news organizations have blood on their hands.

When i heard about this story, the first thing i thought was "even if it's true, why on earth would they publish that story?"

i admit that's an untenable position to take. Freedom of the press and all that rot. But true or not, the story was going to cost lives. Newsweek had to know that. Did that fact present even a minor speed bump to their rush to embarrass the hated United States?

Apparently not, since Newsweek has now apologized for publishing a lie.

Newsweek magazine on Sunday said it may have erred in a May 9 report that said U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to victims of deadly violence sparked by the article.

The weekly news magazine said in its May 23 edition that the original source of the allegation was not sure where he saw the assertion that at least one copy of the Koran was flushed down a toilet in an attempt to get detainees to talk.

'We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst,' Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine's latest issue, due to appear on U.S. newsstands on Monday.

The report has sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza.

On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States in three days unless it handed over the interrogators in question.

And yet people still criticize Fox News.

Biased journalism is not just annoying, not just wrong, not just unethical, sometimes it gets people killed.

Update: i shouldn't have complimented Fox News. Even they're sloppy. Reporting on the story this afternoon, Chris Wallace said that Newsweek's source had said he saw the alleged flushing incident, but then backed away from his story. Not true. The source actually told Newsweek's Michael Isakoff that the incident would be mentioned in an upcoming written report by military investigators. The source never saw any incident. He only saw a reference to an allegation of an incident in a report investigating a bunch of alleged incidents. As it turned out, the incident didn't make it into the final report. No matter, Newsweek went ahead with the story. Somewhere, Mary Mapes is probably smiling.

[cross-posted at A Western Heart]

Posted by annika, May. 15, 2005 |
Rubric: annikapunditry


Excellent post! I have e-mailed the smiling amateur Whitaker at whitaker@newsweek.com. I hope the rest of the blogosphere does the same.

The text of my note to Whitaker is below:

Mr. Whitaker:

Your recent apology regarding the Koran and subsequent violence rings very hollow. Even if the story about desecration of Korans was completely true, only an amatuer journalist would not be able to predict what Muslim extremists would do upon hearing the story. They certainly would not take pains to verify its veracity. Ironically, Newsweek did not either.

You, Mr. Whitaker, Newsweek, and the liberal media, have the blood of 16 people and 100 injured on your hands. In a constant quest to make American soldiers look like monsters, you and your news organization have behaved like starving vultures causing the deaths of innocent people.

Posted by: Mark on May. 15, 2005

CORRECTION: His e-mail is MARK.WHITAKER@newsweek.com



Posted by: Mark on May. 15, 2005

Little to be said, if anything, we've aired on the side of being humane. This isn't a very effective way to collect humint. I hope someone out there has the stones to do something productive. We're going to end up paying for all of this pussyfooting.

Posted by: Casca on May. 15, 2005

If the shoe were on the other foot and someone from the right had made a false allegation that had similar implications, the MSM would be interviewing the families of the deceased, calling for the head of the dissimulator, and declaring the war lost.
But it's Newsweek. Sounds like someone's going to get a promotion. Or maybe a book deal.

Posted by: Trevor on May. 15, 2005

The Arab world deserves to be outraged by this story....I believe in my heart it is true...the garbage that interrogators do in Guantanamo Bay is horrifying....yet BUSH BABY says the war against terror is on course....maybe it is in Texas BUSH BABY

Posted by: John on May. 16, 2005


Which news organization do you work for? You've got ethics, integrity, and rules of evidence down pat.

Posted by: John on May. 16, 2005

I acknowledge the importance of human emotion, but relying on it while risking the safety and lives of US soldiers and innocent civilians is obscene.

I guess if you "believe it in your heart," it must be true; it cannot be false.

Make no mistake: NEWSWEEK RAN THIS STORY TO MAKE BUSH AND THE US MILITARY LOOK BAD. Consequences and truth be damned.

Posted by: Mark on May. 16, 2005

Mark: don't you think they ran the story because breaking stories is how they sell magazines?

Posted by: Preston on May. 16, 2005


Using this logic, then tabloid journalism should be the standard. That is, if selling magazines is all that counts, then publish anything, at anytime.

Newsweek surely cares about the bottom line, but running stories like this can always back fire on them too. (And it did, but just not the way Newsweek hoped for: Sixteen dead, hundreds injured, and horrible P.R. for the US and our military. Heads should ROLL over this.)

Posted by: Mark on May. 17, 2005

Mark Whitaker should be deported case closed.
If you do not posess the common sense to realize that we are at war and printing sensitive issues could fuel the enemy and put our soldiers in harms way than you are committing treason. Lets give the widows of the slain soldiers baseball bats and limo them to the Newsweek building for some practice swings on Whitaker's face.

Posted by: john on Jul. 22, 2005