Demonstrators in Islamabad react to Newsweek’s report of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay (REUTERS)
You have the read the story by now via the Times (UK) online and elsewhere: “At least nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran.”
In a jaw-dropping editor’s note, Newsweek’s Mark Whitaker now admits that the deadly paragraph was wrong. I’m reprinting the note in whole:
May 23 issue – Did a report in NEWSWEEK set off a wave of deadly anti-American riots in Afghanistan? That’s what numerous news accounts suggested last week as angry Afghans took to the streets to protest reports, linked to us, that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Qur’an while interrogating Muslim terror suspects. We were as alarmed as anyone to hear of the violence, which left at least 15 Afghans dead and scores injured. But I think it’s important for the public to know exactly what we reported, why, and how subsequent events unfolded.
Two weeks ago, in our issue dated May 9, Michael Isikoff and John Barry reported in a brief item in our periscope section that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that American guards at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had committed infractions in trying to get terror suspects to talk, including in one case flushing a Qur’an down a toilet. Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur’an charge.
Although other major news organizations had aired charges of Qur’an desecration based only on the testimony of detainees, we believed our story was newsworthy because a U.S. official said government investigators turned up this evidence. So we published the item. After several days, newspapers in Pakistan and Afghan-istan began running accounts of our story. At that point, as Evan Thomas, Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report this week, the riots started and spread across the country, fanned by extremists and unhappiness over the economy.
Last Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told us that a review of the probe cited in our story showed that it was never meant to look into charges of Qur’an desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them “not credible.” Our original source later said he couldn’t be certain about reading of the alleged Qur’an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts. Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we. But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.
Scott Johnson at Power Line said it best and tersely: “Pathetic.”
Roger L. Simon wants to know who Isikoff’s source was and sez: “Newsweek isn’t saying. Until they report such things as that, I won’t believe a word the magazine says. Why would anybody? BTW, am I the only one who finds Newsweek always referring to itself in UPPER CASE to be repellent? It reminds me of people who post in caps on the Internet. You’re always suspicious they’re lying.”
Newsweek has blood on its hands. Blood on its desks. Isikoff should cough up his source.
Little Green Footballs: The Jihad Newsweek inspired
Blackfive: Partners in terror?
Mudville Gazette: Shredding the book
Marc Landers at U.S.S. Neverdock asks: “[H]ow many in the world will read this admission? And of those who do, how many will conclude that Newsweek was pressured into this admission by the government to quell the riots?”
He also wonders where the MSM was when terrorists used the Bible for toilet paper.
The Anchoress offers an answer to the question: “What is at work here – why is Newsweek deliberately pouring fuel onto a fire?”
Captain Ed: “Remember this when the Exempt Media gets on its righteous high horse and instructs us on their superior system of checks and balances.” Exactly.
Omar at the invaluable IraqtheModel observes:
What is interesting is that Iraq witnessed no demonstration at all, not even a single statement of [denouncement] from anyone although Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya kept running updates on this subject almost every news-hour and have always talked about the descretion incident as if it were confirmed news.
If this is to indicate anything I think it indic[ates] that Iraqis are more concerned about their own lives than they’re about the “issues” of the Islamic world’s dignity and more important (and here I see our community approaching a turning point) is that people are giving the media less credit than they used to do.
That is very heartening.
Video coverage at The Political Teen.
*Didn’t think I needed to s-p-e-l-l i-t o-u-t, but some readers asked for clarification. Newsweek was reckless and sloppy and wrong. But I do not think the magazine “lied.” Just thought it a very appropriate moment to do a boomerang on the moonbats’ most dishonest and annoying meme.
There’s a war going on, a global war, and Newsweek acts like it’s trying to “Get Nixon.” (Heck, the Washington Post owns Newsweek, and the Post’s halcyon was Watergate.) The problem is not simply a reporter’s mistake but editorial ignorance of the global information grid.
Update: In the Washington Post this morning…
Whitaker sez: “I suppose you could say we should have foreseen the consequences of the report, but we didn’t.”