We Denounce, You Decide

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on December 6, 2006

USA Today’s Mark Memmott, blogging on the paper’s Web site, reports on a dispute over Iraq war reporting:

The Associated Press is standing by its report that six Sunni men were burned to death in Baghdad Friday by Shiites, even though U.S. military officials have accused the wire service of relying on a source who “is not who he claimed he was,” an Iraqi police captain.

Military officials also say they cannot confirm that the incident took place and have asked AP to retract or correct the story, which was repeated by media around the world and cited as a grim example of Shiites taking revenge for a deadly bombing that killed more than 200 people a day before.

The AP story was also challenged by various bloggers. As is often the case, it’s hard to sort out who’s right. But Memmott does a public service by reproducing in full a letter to the AP from Lt. Michael Dean, U.S. Navy public affairs officer, and the response from the AP’s international editor, John Daniszewski. Click on the link atop this item (“We Report, You Decide”) to read the letters in full, along with Memmott’s more detailed account. But what got our attention was the tone of the two letters. Here’s an excerpt from Lt. Dean’s:

Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was.

Here’s part of the AP’s response:

The Associated Press denounces unfounded attacks on its story about six Sunni worshipers burned to death outside their mosque on Friday, November 24. The attempt to question the existence of the known police officer who spoke to the AP is frankly ludicrous and hints at a certain level of desperation to dispute or suppress the facts of the incident in question.

So the military makes a “respectful request,” to which the AP responds by “denouncing unfounded attacks” and calling criticism of its reporting “frankly ludicrous” and accusing its critics of “desperation.”

Which side comes across as more impartial and interested in the facts?


Click here to view the original posting by James Taranto at OpinionJournal.com.

The Iraqi Government also says the AP’s story is false. Read about it here.