Yesterday, I posted an article on HumanEvents.com pointing out the absurd bias in the Washington Post‘s Military Correspondent Tom Ricks’s story about Gen. Barry McCaffrey’s March 26 report on his trip to Iraq. In it, I pointed out how Ricks had totally inverted the McCaffrey report to fit his own anti-war narrative. My piece apparently struck a nerve.
Last evening, Ricks sent me this e-mail:
Subject: A comment on yours
News isn’t a proportional relationship–that is, one paragraph deep in a report may contain the nugget of a story, and hundreds of other pages may not be worth a mention. In my view, given General McCaffrey’s past optimism, the news here was his "problems" section. Also, when I pointed out to him the discrpeancy in the tone of different parts of the report, he told me that he wrote that section with his head, but the later more optimistic parts with his heart.
At any rate, if I were interested in misprepresentation, why would I have the Post make sure to put the entire report on-line, and have a notice to that effect at the end of the print story that encouraged people to read the whole thing?
The Washington Post
Here’s my response:
News isn’t proportional, but reporting is about facts, not fitting something into your narrative. Your piece is about 663 words, and from the first sentence to the last — with only two sentences I can find intervening to show McCaffrey’s actual assessment — your go on and on with freighted words about how hopeless the whole enterprise is.
If you were reporting and not commenting politically, you should have made clear McCaffrey’s conclusions:
1. Since Petraeus arrived, the situation on the ground has improved "clearly and measurably"’
2. We can still achieve the president’s objectives of a stable Iraq not producing terrorists and committed to a law-based government; and 3. Most importantly — and contrary to what the Dems are doing in Congress — "[W]e need a last powerful effort to provide US leaders on the ground — the political support, economic reconstruction resources and the military strength it requires to succeed."
You chose sides in "Fiasco." Why not just admit it? What has Downie said about this? Who reviewed it before it went out? Has Downie decided to let your readers know that the White House is disputing the truth of your report?
Let’s send this to the deans of the top five journalism schools and see what they say about it. And let’s stand you and me up in front of a town hall group in Colorado Springs or St. Louis and see who is believed. How does the Post justify this obvious strong bias? Best, Jed Babbin.
This is what the Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS and the rest of the politically active media do when caught: obfuscate. Will the editors of the Washington Post ever hear of the White House’s disparagement of the Ricks report, or of the actual import of McCaffrey’s words? Don’t bet on it.