19 May 2009

Responsible Journalism Award

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Our special award for responsible journalism goes to that ever popular red-rag The Nation for today’s unsigned story, which quotes an alleged interview by arch-traitor Seymour Hersh with “Arab TV.”

The story contends, in broken and infelicitous English, that Pakistan president-elect Benazir Bhutto was murdered by a US assassination squad operating under the orders of Dick Cheney (!). Supposedly, she was killed because she had revealed in an interview in 2007 with Al Jazeera that Osama bin Ladin was dead, killed by Omar Saeed Sheikh.

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In this November 2, 2007 (14:38 video) interview with David Frost (at around 6:10), Bhutto refers to a “very key figure” in Pakistani security, a retired military officer, who she alleges “has had dealings” with (among others) “Omar Sheikh, the man who murdered Osama bin Ladin.”

But, as Omaron notes in this blog posting, Bhutto’s reference to bin Ladin was probably just a slip of the tongue.

While she did say what I (and now lots of others) thought she said, … both from reading the transcript and re-watching the clip, was that she simply misspoke, meaning to say “the man who killed [WSJ reporter] Daniel Pearl” – which Omar Sheikh is accused of – in such a matter of fact tone, because it is well known.

It appears she didn’t realize what she said. Even Frost, that ever-cunning interviewer, seems to have missed it.

Speaking not for the Al Jazeera network, but for myself – as a journalist – I can say that the question should have been cleared up in the interview. But why I chose not to pursue the story: Not because of a conspiracy or a cover-up, but because it was an apparent slip of the tongue.

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The Nation’s news story tells us that the US death squad is under the command of General Stanley McChrystal, just appointed by Obama as US commander in Afghanistan, and that it also killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of Lebanon.

One can only observe that the Nation’s news reporting fully equals its political and economic analysis in responsibility, accuracy, and quality.

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Ooops! What do you know? Why, Seymour Hersch himself denies having said any such thing, and calls the Nation’s report “complete madness.”

Are they embarassed, do you suppose?

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