Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I spent the morning working with the tenacious and resourceful Jane Hamsher on finding out exactly which Time editors were responsible for the wildly inaccurate Joe Klein FISA article. Numerous people at Time vigorously insisted they had nothing to do with it. Finally, Jane was able to ascertain that the person responsible was Time Editor Priscilla Painton.
As Jane details here, she called Painton in an attempt to find out information about how these false claims made it into Klein's article, what Time was planning on doing to correct it and whether they would account for what happened. I happened to be conversing with Jane by video when she was finally able to speak by telephone to Painton and thus heard Jane's end of the discussion.
The call lasted roughly 10 seconds. Jane asked one or two questions in the most polite and professional manner possible -- whether Painton was Klein's Editor and how such errors made their way into the article. As Jane describes, after she asked Painton how such inaccuracies could make it into the Time article, Painton snapped: "That assumes that there are errors." She then slammed down the phone in Hamsher's face.
Not even Klein contends that his article was free of factual error. He has, albeit in an extremely weaselly and conditional way, admitted that his article likely included factual errors, first blaming it on "confusion" and stating: "I may have made a mistake in my column this week about the FISA legislation passed by the House." He further acknowledged that he "reported as fact a provision of the bill that seems to be disputable" and that he -- and thus presumably Painton -- "didn't do sufficient vetting of the facts."
Klein later (in an update to that post) tried to explain away the errors by claiming he "may have misinterpreted a Democratic source's point about the difference between individual and 'basket' warrants." Still later, he said he was incapable of figuring out if what he wrote was true and said he had no interest in spending the time to do so. None of that can be reconciled with Painton's outrageous, clearly false insistence that the article she edited contained no errors.
Does anyone at Time have any integrity at all? They just smeared House Democrats as Terrorist-coddling national security losers to 4 million Americans based on patently false statements about the bill they passed, fed to them by Bush officials and/or GOP operatives. And now they are acting as though they are the victimized party which shouldn't have to account for anything that happened or even answer questions about what they just did.
In her post, Jane provides contact information for Painton and it is worth using it to request politely that Painton respond meaningfully to these inquiries from citizens concerned about the falsehoods which she and Time are spewing. I would also recommend writing to Painton's boss, Managing Editor Rick Stengel (at firstname.lastname@example.org). I sent him the following email earlier today which he has thus far ignored:
Mr. Stengel - I'm working on a comprehensive piece for Salon about the process that allowed Joe Klein to publish blatantly false statements in his FISA article. I'd like to interview you regarding this matter, including these topics:It isn't enough to issue some obscure, clouded "correction" which creates the false impression there is some good faith dispute over what the House Democrats' bill does and that Klein and Painton just became understandably confused about such complex legalistic issues, all accompanied by a self-justifying, shoulder-shrugging "Hey-everyone-makes-mistakes" tone. The real story here is that Joe Klein's GOP source(s) blatantly lied to him about what this bill does in order to scare Americans into supporting George Bush's demands for greater eavesdropping powers.
Who edited Joe Klein's piece? How could such unambiguously, factually false claims make it into the article, and who is responsible for correcting it? Does Time have the responsibility not only to correct mistakes like this but also, where it seems rather clearly to be the by-product of willful deceit on the part of a source, describe how it was tricked? Could you email me and let me know if you can talk and I can call you, or you can give me a call [phone number]. Thanks -
Neither Klein nor Painton bothered to verify whether anything they were told was true. Instead, they mindlessly printed it with an accompanying article smearing Democrats as weak on national security and concerned with Terrorists Rights at the expense of protecting Americans.
In other words, the same corrupt propagandistic process that has driven so much of our reckless press coverage during the Bush presidency generated these outright falsehoods. How that happened and who was responsible -- as well as what Time's culpability is -- is the real story here. That is what Time has to answer. We ought to demand those answers from Stengel and Painton. It is flatly unacceptable to print outright lies as fact in order to mislead the country on such vital political matters and then refuse to account for what really happened.