1,378 Words Later – Or, How to Mangle an Interview with the Secretary of State
by Daniel Pipes
I was one of the many readers who jumped (in my case, at "Will the Gaza Precedent Haunt Israel?") on seeing this passage recently in the New York Times:
It turns out that this is a massive distortion of her words and meaning. In another instance of the blogosphere catching out the mainstream media, Rick Richman shows in "Condoleezza Rice and The New York Times" how the two Times interviewers, Joel Brinkley and Steven Weisman, manufactured the above quote.
Drawing on the full transcript of the interview, as provided on the State Department website, Richman shows that the first sentence of the quote comes from this statement by Rice:
(Note the inaccuracies in wording of the New York Times version.) The second part comes 1,378 words later, from here:
Alex Safian of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) explains the difference between the Times version and the actual interview:
Safian then goes on to document "outright inventions" in other parts of the Times reportage.
Comments: (1) One finds oneself wondering if the mainstream media was always this fraudulent and in the pre-internet age one just did not find out; or whether it has degenerated as partisanship has taken hold. I suspect the latter.
(2) Acquired habits of credence must be shed; the New York Times and like sources of information now must be read with an "interesting if true" spirit.
(3) Most mysterious: Why did the secretary of state's office, which surely noted this mangled quotation, not correct it? (August 27, 2005)
Sep. 1, 2005 update: A reader responds to the first comment with a reminder about Walter Duranty's cover up for Lenin and Stalin and Herbert Matthews' fabrications on behalf of Fidel Castro, concluding: "So as you can see your first supposition in the comment was correct." Those were indeed wretched – and far greater – sins than this one. Still, I wonder if in those days New York Times reporters would distort an interview with the secretary of state in like fashion.
Sep. 4, 2005 update: There has been no correction forthcoming from the New York Times but Steven Weisman quietly changed his reporting on Rice's statement in a news item today, "Hoping to Buttress Sharon, U.S. Urges Allies' Restraint." Quite contrary to the interview, Weisman reports here that the U.S. government does not want to pressure Israel for further concessions:
Comment: It's good to see this implicit correction, but it should be made explicit.
Sep. 5, 2005 update: Rick Richman takes up my third comment above, where I ask why Rice did not correct the record immediately. At "Condi and the NYT -- The Last Word," he points out that on August 18, the day the interview appeared, two things happened: an Israeli minister called Rice on it and the quote was the subject of a contentious exchange at the State Department's daily press briefing. Then, five days later, President Bush obliquely addressed this issue. Richman concludes from this:
To my mind, this explanation is too convoluted. There was no need for a letter to the editor – the department press briefer on August 18, assuming with Richman that he was aware of the problem, easily could have corrected the record and dispatched the problem within hours of its appearance.
Why did he not do so? I suspect because he and the secretary did not want to embarrass the Times reporters. Government officials and the press who cover them must work together and rudely to expose so egregious an error could sour relations. Better a small diplomatic storm, went the implicit calculation at State, than to make important journalists look bad.
Sep. 9, 2005 update: CAMERA reports on a letter from Steven Weisman to a reader sent sometime before his Sep. 4 correction:
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