Friday, March 31, 2006
Howard Kaloogian uses photo of Turkish street to "Prove" that the "Media" are spreading false information about Iraq. Huh?
CAMPAIGN 2006: Candidate admits 'stupid' Web error
Conservative uses photo of Turkey, calls it Baghdad
By Carla Marinucci / San Francisco Chronicle
A leading conservative California congressional candidate who has made support for the war in Iraq a central issue acknowledged Wednesday that a campaign Web site photo -- billed as a peaceful street scene taken during his recent trip to Baghdad -- was actually photographed in Turkey.
Howard Kaloogian, the former GOP assemblyman running for the seat vacated by disgraced 50th Congressional District Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, said using the photo was "a stupid mistake'' and acknowledged in an interview Wednesday that it was brought to his attention recently by bloggers and activists on the left.
"It was wrong. We're sorry,'' Kaloogian said of the peaceful street scene from Istanbul labeled as depicting downtown Baghdad. He said his staff mistakenly put the photo on the site.
The campaign posted the photo from Kaloogian's July trip to Iraq, a mission dubbed the "Truth Tour" and organized to "tell the American people about the accomplishments (troops) are making in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the fight against terrorism,'' according to the tax-exempt group Move America Forward, a conservative grassroots organization Kaloogian helped found.
The caption read that "we took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq'' which is "much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it -- in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.''
But bloggers on the popular liberal Daily Kos Web site revealed the photo depicted a street scene in Turkey.
Kaloogian said the photo was taken during a layover in Istanbul and was mixed up with those taken on the Iraq tour -- whose participants included conservative talk show hosts such as San Francisco's Melanie Morgan of KSFO.
While regrettable, he said, the mistake "doesn't change my message ... that good things are happening in Baghdad that you're not reading about in the daily papers.''
With two weeks until the April 11 special election to replace Cunningham in the San Diego County congressional district, Kaloogian's mistake may be the latest cautionary tale about the unforgiving transparency of political campaigns in the Internet age.
"It's a warning,'' says Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communication at Cal State Sacramento. "These campaign sites are fair game for anyone -- and if you put it up, you better be prepared to defend it. ... And that's as it should be.''
Recent postings on Daily Kos show that bloggers publicly questioned the authenticity of the Kaloogian photo. Some debated details that seemed unlikely in war-torn Iraq -- commercial signs on the street in Turkish, not Arabic; strollers wearing Western-style clothing and holding hands, and billboards carrying ads for high-end products such as Oakley sunglasses.
Kaloogian and his campaign strategist, Sal Russo, confirmed Wednesday what the bloggers alleged -- that the photo was taken in Turkey -- though they insisted it was an honest mistake.
The candidate said he hadn't recognized the error because "the military asked us to use our discretion and put things on the Internet that were nondescriptive ... (because) if we posted something that was easily identifiable, it could be a target."
The news could affect the 50th District election to replace Cunningham, now serving an eight-year federal prison term for bribery and corruption. The election in the Republican-dominated area has been a combative slugfest -- with 14 Republicans battling for their party's nomination.
Markos Moulitsas, the Berkeley-based founder of the Daily Kos, wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle: "That this photo was recognized as a fake was amazing. That someone actually tracked down another photo of that very street corner in an obscure suburb of Istanbul, Turkey, is downright mind-boggling.
"The political landscape changes dramatically when you have hundreds of thousands of people doing real-time research into campaigns and candidates,'' Moulitsas said. "In years past, people would've taken Kaloogian at his word that the photo in an e-mail was from Baghdad."