When ace reporter Michael Isikoff had the scoop of the decade, a thoroughly sourced story about the president of the United States having an affair with an intern and then pressuring her to lie about it under oath, Newsweek decided not to run the story. Matt Drudge scooped Newsweek, followed by The Washington Post.
When Isikoff had a detailed account of Kathleen Willey's nasty sexual encounter with the president in the Oval Office, backed up with eyewitness and documentary evidence, Newsweek decided not to run it. Again, Matt Drudge got the story.
When Isikoff was the first with detailed reporting on Paula Jones' accusations against a sitting president, Isikoff's then-employer The Washington Post -- which owns Newsweek -- decided not to run it. The American Spectator got the story, followed by the Los Angeles Times.
So apparently it's possible for Michael Isikoff to have a story that actually is true, but for his editors not to run it.
Why no pause for reflection when Isikoff had a story about American interrogators at Guantanamo flushing the Quran down the toilet? Why not sit on this story for, say, even half as long as NBC News sat on Lisa Meyers' highly credible account of Bill Clinton raping Juanita Broaddrick?
Newsweek seems to have very different responses to the same reporter's scoops. Who's deciding which of Isikoff's stories to run and which to hold? I note that the ones that Matt Drudge runs have turned out to be more accurate -- and interesting! -- than the ones Newsweek runs. Maybe Newsweek should start running everything past Matt Drudge.
Somehow Newsweek missed the story a few weeks ago about Saudi Arabia arresting 40 Christians for "trying to spread their poisonous religious beliefs." But give the American media a story about American interrogators defacing the Quran, and journalists are so appalled there's no time for fact-checking -- before they dash off to see the latest exhibition of "Piss Christ."
Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas justified Newsweek's decision to run the incendiary anti-U.S. story about the Quran, saying that "similar reports from released detainees" had already run in the foreign press -- "and in the Arab news agency al-Jazeera."
Is there an adult on the editorial board of Newsweek? Al-Jazeera also broadcast a TV miniseries last year based on the "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion." (I didn't see it, but I hear James Brolin was great!) Al-Jazeera has run programs on the intriguing question, "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" (Take a wild guess where the consensus was on this one.) It runs viewer comments about Jews being descended from pigs and apes. How about that for a Newsweek cover story, Evan? You're covered -- al-Jazeera has already run similar reports!
Ironically, among the reasons Newsweek gave for killing Isikoff's Lewinsky bombshell was that Evan Thomas was worried someone might get hurt. It seems that Lewinsky could be heard on tape saying that if the story came out, "I'll (expletive) kill myself."
But Newsweek couldn't wait a moment to run a story that predictably ginned up Islamic savages into murderous riots in Afghanistan, leaving hundreds injured and 16 dead. Who could have seen that coming? These are people who stone rape victims to death because the family "honor" has been violated and who fly planes into American skyscrapers because -- wait, why did they do that again?
Come to think of it, I'm not sure it's entirely fair to hold Newsweek responsible for inciting violence among people who view ancient Buddhist statues as outrageous provocation -- though I was really looking forward to finally agreeing with Islamic loonies about something. (Bumper sticker idea for liberals: News magazines don't kill people, Muslims do.) But then I wouldn't have sat on the story of the decade because of the empty threats of a drama queen gas-bagging with her friend on the telephone between spoonfuls of Haagen-Dazs.
No matter how I look at it, I can't grasp the editorial judgment that kills Isikoff's stories about a sitting president molesting the help and obstructing justice, while running Isikoff's not particularly newsworthy (or well-sourced) story about Americans desecrating a Quran at Guantanamo.
Even if it were true, why not sit on it? There are a lot of reasons the media withhold even true facts from readers. These include:
- A drama queen nitwit exclaimed she'd kill herself. (Evan Thomas' reason for holding the Lewinsky story.)
- The need for "more independent reporting." (Newsweek President Richard Smith explaining why Newsweek sat on the Lewinsky story even though the magazine had Lewinsky on tape describing the affair.)
- "We were in Havana." (ABC president David Westin explaining why "Nightline" held the Lewinsky story.)
- Unavailable for comment. (Michael Oreskes, New York Times Washington bureau chief, in response to why, the day The Washington Post ran the Lewinsky story, the Times ran a staged photo of Clinton meeting with the Israeli president on its front page.)
- Protecting the privacy of an alleged rape victim even when the accusation turns out to be false.
- Protecting an accused rapist even when the accusation turns out to be true if the perp is a Democratic president most journalists voted for.
- Protecting a reporter's source.
How about the media adding to the list of reasons not to run a news item: "Protecting the national interest"? If journalists don't like the ring of that, how about this one: "Protecting ourselves before the American people rise up and lynch us for our relentless anti-American stories."