Accuracy in Media

Insight magazine, under fire by the Huffington Post website and other “progressives” for running a story about Hillary Clinton operatives looking into Barack Obama’s alleged attendance at a radical Islamic school, has been cited as a credible source on more than a half dozen occasions by the Huffington Post itself. In fact, one of the Insight stories cited by the Huffington Post as legitimate concerned plans by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign to deal with the threat posed by an Obama candidacy. This article cited “sources close to Ms. Clinton.”

All of this is relevant to whether or not Insight was accurate in subsequently claiming that researchers connected to Senator Clinton were looking into whether Obama, as a boy in Muslim Indonesia, attended an extremist-oriented religious school commonly known as a madrassa. Insight has reiterated that it was reporting on the Clinton campaign’s interest in the story and that it did not say that details about Obama’s alleged radical Muslim past had been confirmed.

Insight, which was deemed highly credible in the past by the Huffington Post, a popular left-wing site, suddenly became unbelievable after its alarming story about Obama attracted national media attention. But this is why the story must be thoroughly investigated and either verified or put to rest. 

The Huffington Post can’t have it both ways-if Insight was credible on other major political issues of national importance, why is it not credible when the controversy involves Senator Clinton’s operatives doing opposition research on Obama? For the record, Insight, which is affiliated with the Washington Times, stands by the story. Insight editor Jeffrey Kuhner told AIM, “We stand behind the story 150 percent. We know it’s true. We know it’s accurate.”  

A quick search of The Huffington Post website picked up several instances where Insight articles were presented as credible:

  • The Huffington Post highlighted an Insight article claiming that Newt Gingrich had blamed Karl Rove for the problems of the Republican Party.

  • The Huffington Post featured an Insight article about Hillary’s campaign being worried about a Barack Obama candidacy.

  • The Huffington Post noted that a  conservative mag  Insight had run an article about computer voting machine problems.

  • The Huffington Post cited Insight s claim that the White House secretly funneled millions of dollars into the Senate campaign of Joseph Lieberman.

  • The Huffington Post ran an Insight story about the Republican Party “fracturing.”

  • The Huffington Post featured an Insight article that there was gloom and doom in the White House over its Middle East policy.

  • The Huffington Post cited an Insight article about how the Hillary for President campaign would handle questions about her marriage to Bill Clinton.

The Insight articles picked up by the Huffington Post cited the following as the basis for these claims: government sources, a senior GOP source, sources, strategists, Democratic Party sources, and sources close to Hillary Clinton. These anonymous sources were perfectly acceptable to the Huffington Post, even when they claimed to be providing information about the Hillary campaign. 

Nevertheless, Cenk Uygur of the Huffington Post says that Fox News should not be regarded as a credible or real news organization because it cited the Insight story about Hillary operatives investigating Obama’s alleged attendance at a madrassa. 

If Fox News has lost its credibility because it cited one Insight article, what shall we conclude about the Huffington Post quoting and featuring more than a half dozen of them? 

The Huffington Post should be embarrassed, not Insight. Insight editor Jeffrey Kuhner, a former Professor of American History at McGill University, is a respected journalist who has contributed to such publications as Human Events and National Review online. 

Veteran journalist George Archibald, who left the Washington Times and has become a critic of the paper’s top editors and a contributor to the Huffington Post, says that he worked with Kuhner on the national desk of the Times and that he was “one of the best editors I ever worked with, a Catholic man of moral courage and vision who respected truth and often told me to go back and re-check stuff my sources had told me.” 

Archibald adds, “I believe from my own independent reporting since publication of the Insight piece that the source of the Insight story was, as reported, people within Hillary Clinton’s exploratory presidential campaign.” 

What’s more, Archibald says that he told New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick about Kuhner’s “high journalism standards and qualities” but that Kirkpatrick left out all of this information when the paper published his article attacking Kuhner and Insight and their “anonymous smear.” 

Under pressure from the left, some mainstream journalists have called the Insight story “unfounded,” apparently on the basis of self-serving biographical information provided by Obama himself, as well as a CNN report that the school he attended as a boy in Indonesia from 1969-1971 does not look like a madrassa. The report featured CNN reporter John Vause briefly visiting the school, interviewing a school official, and observing the students. Vause, who said he had visited madrassas in Pakistan, reported that Obama’s school included students of various religious backgrounds and that “this school is nothing like” a madrassa. 

However, it is not clear what this report tells us about the nature of the school more than 30 years ago. 

CNN also reported that a Clinton spokesman has “denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim.”

At least this much is known: Barack Hussein Obama, whose name is Arabic and Koranic, acknowledges studying the Koran at a Muslim school but insists it was not radical. His grandfather and father were raised as Muslims but Obama says that he became a Christian sometime later in life. It is not clear what impact these Muslim influences have had on his life and thinking. He has emerged as a prominent opponent of the war in Iraq.   

While the Insight story was questionable, it cannot be easily dismissed. It would be a tragedy if the hastily-produced and superficial CNN report ended the controversy. News consumers should demand better coverage from all news organizations of a man whose rise to prominence is almost as mysterious as his years in Muslim Indonesia. 

This includes conservative media which echoed the Insight story without checking it out thoroughly. They played right into the hands of those “progressive” activists demanding return of the so-called fairness doctrine. 

Citing the story first published by Insight and then repeated on the air by Fox News and prominent conservative talk show hosts like Sean Hannity, the Freeport (Illinois) Journal-Standard declared that “while few read Insight, the lie quickly spread to the talk radio instigators, who repeated it ad nauseam, with no equal time given to opposing views, much less the truth.” The paper said restoration of the fairness doctrine would rein in the “partisan noise machine” that targets Democrats.

Some “progressives” want the public to believe that the story has been proven to be a lie, smear, or hoax. But that is not the case. It is the case that “progressives” want to use this controversy to make conservative media pay for running the story. Lacking a fairness doctrine at the present time, Cenk Uygur on the Huffington Post website suggested the use of liberal political pressure, such as a refusal by Democratic Party politicians to appear on Fox News or a boycott of the channel’s advertisers. 

If they had a fairness doctrine in place, you can bet that these “progressives” would be agitating for federal complaints to be filed against Fox News and conservative talk radio over the Obama story. This controversy over Insight gives us a real insight into their authoritarian thinking and how they would manage and censor the national news if they could do so.

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