Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek - The No-Retraction Retraction

Newsweek's story that Guantanamo interrogators flushed a Koran down a toilet turns out not to be true. Publication of the story resulted in riots and deaths in the Muslim world. Newsweek has finally and formally admitted a mistake and has retracted the story. Newsweek's editor released the following statement this evening: “Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay.”

In Newsweek's first admission of error, Newsweek states,
Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur’an charge.

If I understand Newsweek's statement correctly, a fact is confirmed when one government official declines to respond and another does not address the fact. Newsweek needs a lesson in elementary logic and journalism. A failure to deny a fact is not confirmation of the fact. Disputing another fact without addressing the fact in question is not confirmation of the fact.

In spite of the apparent retraction, Newsweek's editor later told the New York Times in an interview, "We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.”

Maybe it would have been better (and would have spared a few lives) if Newsweek had originally said to itself, "We’re not printing anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.”

Newsweek apparently believes that the standard to retract a false story is higher than the standard to print the same false story. How abusrd!

Newsweek would not have leaped so fast to print this story if it did not put Guantanamo and the Bush administration in a bad light. The bias in the MSM is extreme and colors every element of its news reporting, from selecting stories to reporting facts.

The editor and the reporters involved in this abysmal journalistic effort deserve to be fired. Does anyone believe that Newsweek will fire anyone over this?

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