Accuracy in Media

We noted the other day that John Gizzi of Human Events had criticized David Gregory of NBC News as a classless guy with bad manners. Gregory’s obnoxious behavior was a national scandal, and he eventually apologized for acting up at a White House briefing and calling spokesman Scott McClellan a “jerk.” But it took guts for Gizzi, who attends those briefings and has a White House press pass, to attack Gregory publicly.

Another form of courage was recently demonstrated by Eric Shawn, the Fox News reporter covering the U.N., who blew the whistle on the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA) considering giving a global citizen award to the man they cover-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In the end, Bill Gates won, and another candidate was Bill Clinton. But Shawn made the point that the simple idea of UNCA giving Annan consideration for such an award was a blatant conflict of interest.

Masood Haider, UNCA president, told Fox that Annan’s name had been offered up by members of UNCA, and that the process of selecting an award winner was dictated by UNCA members. In effect, he was washing his hands of the sorry spectacle. Shawn said that he and his producer, both UNCA members, were abstaining during the vote.

None of this should be a great surprise to readers of AIM.  We published a major investigative report into the cozy relationship between UNCA and the U.N.  A former UNCA president has been on the U.N. payroll. The surprise in this case is that an UNCA member, Eric Shawn of Fox, would do a full-blown story about the organization’s ethical problems. Fox News does do stories ignored by the rest of the media, but this kind of story-examining the questionable operations of a major press group-is definitely unique. It took guts.

Shawn also featured some video clips of Annan attacking U.N. reporters who had dared to ask some tough questions. They were James Bone of the Times of London and Benny Avni of the New York Sun.  You can read about Bone’s exchange with Annan at Annan called Bone an “overgrown schoolboy” for asking some embarrassing questions about how Annan’s son Kojo had obtained an expensive Mercedes car and how he avoided paying taxes on it. The son used his father’s name to get a diplomatic discount.

Annan ridiculed Avni, who also asked questions about this matter, saying his answers wouldn’t make any difference. Annan implied that the Sun was determined to make him look bad no matter what.

Claudia Rosett, who covers U.N. corruption issues, took a detailed look at this whole matter in a story headlined “The Mercedes Monologues.” It seems that no one can locate the Mercedes.

Annan does look bad. But that didn’t stop most members of UNCA from considering giving him its citizen of the world award.

Thanks to Eric Shawn of Fox News for exposing this scandal. Wait until the rest of the U.N. press corps reads his forthcoming book.

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