New York Times issues another Mea Culpa for its Iraq coverage, saying the newspaper was duped by the Pentagon
New York, May 31 (RHC) – The New York Times has issued another mea culpa over its Iraq war coverage, saying the newspaper was duped by “the cunning campaign” of those at the Pentagon who wanted the world to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Times executive Daniel Okrent said “some stories pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively one could almost sense the military rankings on the shoulders of editors.”
The half-page critique of the newspaper's coverage during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq followed a separate admission signed by “the editors” last week that said the newspaper had not been as “rigorous as it should have been” in questioning Iraqi exiles. Okrent said that in the run-up to the invasion, “cloaked government sources ... insinuated themselves and their agendas into prewar coverage.” The newspaper's failure, he said, was institutional, and admitted that “to anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of weapons of mass destruction seemed unmistakable.”
Okrent said much of the inaccurate coverage was “inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines.” He said other stories that had challenged the assertions or tried to put the claims into perspective “were played as quietly as a lullaby.” In one instance, a challenging story by James Risen, entitled “CIA aides feel pressure in preparing Iraqi reports,” was completed several days before the invasion and “unaccountably” held for a week. The report finally appeared three days after the war broke out and was buried on page 10 of the newspaper's second section. Okrent said that many so-called “scoops” based on unsubstantiated revelations have still to be revisited.
First Mea Culpa issued by New York Times for slanted Iraq coverage leading up to war and occupation
New York, May 26 (RHC) - The New York Times has issued a mea culpa for its slanted coverage of Iraq leading up to the war and occupation, saying that its reporting in a number of stories "was not as rigorous as it should have been" and relied on reports from informants whose credibility was later called into question. In a lengthy editor's note that appears inside the front section of Wednesday's editions, the Times said that reports of claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or ties to international terrorists contained information that was unchallenged by editors and was not adequately followed up.
The newspaper said it had also more prominently featured articles containing alarming claims about Iraq under Saddam Hussein than follow-up stories that countered those claims. Many of the stories used information from Iraqi exiles and critics of Hussein who were pressing the United States to oust the Iraqi leader, but the Times said it did not always emphasize the informants' motivations. The Times cited five stories - including several page one articles - written between 2001 and 2003 that had accounts of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq. It admitted that none of the stories have ever been independently verified, and some were even discredited by its own reporters at another news organization. And, said the Times, when in-house journalists wrote stories that refuted the original reporting, the corrections were buried. Complicating matters, said the newspaper, the accounts of Iraqi exiles seeking regime change in their country were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.
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