Accuracy in Media

Vice President Cheney’s daughter, Mary Cheney, has been on a book tour but took time out during an interview with Time magazine to defend her father’s reported decision to ban the New York Times from Air Force Two. “I was very supportive of his position,” she said. “There are lots of publications that want to get on the plane. Why don’t we let someone on the plane who’s going to give us a fair shake?”

The comments bring up the exchange that took place between Cheney and then-candidate Bush during the 2000 campaign for president. They were on a platform when Bush spotted Adam Clymer of the Times and reportedly said to Cheney, “There’s Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times.” Cheney replied, “Oh yeah, big time.” The exchange led to a story on headlined, “Team Bush declares war on the New York Times.”

Now we find out, according to a submission in the “CIA leak case” involving Valerie Plame, that Cheney continued to read the Times, at least privately in his own office.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald produced a copy of the infamous Joe Wilson New York Times piece disputing the administration’s rationale for the war in Iraq. Cheney’s scribblings on the column questioned whether Plame, then a CIA employee, sent her husband on a trip to Africa to investigate the Iraq-uranium link.

Cheney wrote, “Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an amb[assador] to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?”

Those were excellent questions, and they went to the heart of a covert operation launched by the CIA against Bush. It’s a tragedy that Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby has been indicted in the case, on charges of allegedly lying about what he told the press about Wilson and his wife. Fitzgerald is assuming that journalists such as Tim Russert, who had conversations with Libby before Plame was named by columnist Robert Novak as a CIA employee, told the truth.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is alarmed that Libby’s lawyers, in making the case that Libby told the truth, will be working to “attack the journalists’ credibility.”

Meanwhile, over at the White House, new press secretary Tony Snow is attacking media credibility with a series of “Setting the Record Straight” items about what he views as misleading coverage of the administration.

Yet, for Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune, the issue is whether Snow will “be able to restore the credibility of the White House?”

Isn’t this typical of the media? Reporters are never at fault.

I once again recommend the Regret the error website, featuring corrections of erroneous stories published by the media themselves.

One of the funniest corrections, which has gotten some national and international publicity, concerns the “prestigious” BBC having run an interview with a job applicant who happened to be in the news organization’s offices, as if he were an expert on high-tech legal cases.

The BBC thought they had Guy Kewney, editor of a technology website, when they actually had Guy Coma, a guy off the street. The BBC had pictures of Kewney, who is white. Still, Coma, who is black, was on the air, looking shocked as he was being interviewed on live TV. Kewney was in another BBC office watching “his” interview on a monitor.

To take the story to another absurd length, the phony Kewney has ended up as an “expert” being interviewed by the BBC on a wide variety of topics, including rising interest rates in Britain. It was the BBC’s way of making fun of themselves.

In many cases, of course, media errors and distortions never get corrected. A good example is Time magazine’s interview of national intelligence director John Negroponte, in which the magazine said he had confirmed the existence of CIA “secret prisons” in Europe. It turns out he never uttered those words “secret prisons.”

Time’s editors must be counting on people never visiting the AIM website or reading our columns.

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