Whether You Like Bush Or Not, Newsweek Blew It Big Time

Variations of this lame “we think Bush is a liar so the media should get a pass when it screws up” defense of Newsweek have been showing up all over place. Here’s the general thrust of this “argument” from Bill Press at the Huffington Post:

“Newsweek relied on faulty intelligence to write a magazine article. George W. Bush relied on faulty intelligence to start a war which has cost over $200 billion, and which has taken the lives of over 1600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.”

It’s tempting to punch up a few paragraphs here defending Bush’s decision to go to war, but that would shift the burden off of Newsweek, which is where it belongs. So let me just say that we were right to go to war, we were right to stay and help the Iraqis build a Democracy, I’m proud of the fantastic job our troops have done under difficult circumstances in Iraq, and if you judge how things have gone by any sort of comparable situation in history, you’ll find that although it has certainly been a “long, hard, slog,” it has also been a tremendous success. What we’re doing today in Iraq is helping to break the back of international terrorism and it may also lead to hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East becoming free at last. Iraq was the right war in the right place at the right time.

But back to Newsweek: so just because Press doesn’t like Bush, that means Newsweek should get a free pass for their abysmal journalism? Yes, there had been previous claims made by former prisoners that the Qu’ran had been flushed down the toilet, but come on, who takes somebody who was locked up in Gitmo at their word besides naive liberals? But, Newsweek didn’t just repeat those claims, they said that according to internal US Government reports, it actually happened. No hedging, no rumors, no maybes, they said it was real.

As a result, there were riots and a lot of people died. Does that absolve the rioters of their responsibility or mean that they weren’t incited by Islamic radicals who were looking to make trouble? No, not in the least. But let’s also remember that if Newsweek had gotten their facts right, there would have been no riots and no deaths.

Moreover, responsible journalists should not run controversial stories based on nothing more than the word of a single anonymous source. Newsweek tried to cover themselves by saying that they ran the story by an anonymous defense official, but they also admit that same official “lacked detailed knowledge of the SouthCom report.” That means that person couldn’t have confirmed or denied the story. In any case, it wasn’t that person’s job to be Newsweek’s fact-checker.

So summing it all up, Newsweek acted irresponsibly and it led to deaths. To try to shrug that off and put the onus on the Bush administration for Newsweek’s horrible mistake is absurd and you’d think a professional journalist like Bill Press would understand that better than most people.

Newsweek should be apologizing profusely and firing people while being roundly condemned by the rest of the media. Instead, they’re being defended. That tells you a lot about why the mainstream media is quite correctly held in such low regard by much of the American public…

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