Accuracy in Media

The New York Times has run an update on the search for the anthrax killers, conveniently forgetting to mention that its own columnist, Nicholas Kristof, was a key factor in getting the FBI to go on a wild goose chase. Hopefully, Kristof and the FBI will be forced to pay. And hopefully, the anthrax killers, who are still on the loose, are not ready to hit us again.

The September 26 story by William J. Broad reported, “In November 2001, it [the FBI] said the culprit was probably a domestic loner with at least limited scientific expertise who was able to use laboratory equipment obtained for as little as $2,500.

Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense expert, came under intense scrutiny in the case even as he vigorously proclaimed his innocence. His extensive ties to the American military establishment seemed like circumstantial evidence of guilt among those who saw the anthrax as highly refined and possibly of weapons-grade.”

Who are “those” people? And “came under scrutiny” by whom? Well, Nicholas Kristof, a Times columnist, pointed a finger of blame at Hatfill, urging the FBI to pursue him. Liberal Senators Patrick Leahy and Thomas Daschle, who got two of the anthrax letters, pressured the FBI to investigate a right-winger. Evidence of al-Qaeda involvement in the attacks was ignored or dismissed.

As a result, Hatfill lost his career when he should have been on the front lines helping to defend the U.S. against bioterrorism. No evidence has ever been presented against him. He has sued the FBI and the Times.

Broad alluded to those developments, noting that “In 2003, Dr. Hatfill sued the bureau and the Justice Department, saying leaks to the news media about him and the public description of him by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a ‘person of interest’ in the case had violated his privacy rights. He also has defamation suits pending against The New York Times, Reader’s Digest and Vanity Fair.”

You will notice that Broad didn’t specifically mention Kristof.

The British Register ran a piece that was right on target, noting, “Nicholas Kristof, originally brimming with what was said to be inside dope on whodunit, named Hatfill on the opinion pages of the New York Times, but doesn’t see fit to opine on it any more. Sued along with his newspaper for defamation by Hatfill, he’s covering Darfur, perhaps as atonement.”

Real atonement will come when the Times and Kristof apologize to Hatfill and pay him financial damages.

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