Monday, June 1, 2009

4/6/08: False headline, copy claim McCain's wrong on Iran - al Qaeda connection; foments misconception-based hate comments (HuffPost: "Approved!!!")


On April 6, 2008, HuffPost's top "news" story was entitled:

McCain Gets Facts Wrong On Iraq Again

The article's author, Sam Stein (HuffPost's Washington reporter), opened the article by claiming the following (emphasis added):
Facts can be funny things.

Over the past several weeks, Sen. John McCain has been occasionally tripping over them in his advocacy for continuing America's presence in Iraq. Most memorably, he repeated - three times - the assertion that Iran was arming al-Qaeda despite the fact that there is no known connection between country and the group, and that the two are clearly of different religions.

Facts are more than "funny things," Mr. Stein. They can be and are very stubborn things --- especially when one can discover them within about 5 minutes, using the Google. And the fact is that, contrary to your assertions:
  • There are numerous, credible accounts of Iran's long-running connection with and support of al Qaeda

  • Iran and al Qaeda do not practice "different religions." Iran is predominantly Shi'a Muslim, whereby al Qaeda is Sunni Muslim. Did you notice that there is a common word there? That's right: "Muslim."

A simple Google search reveals this Washington Post article from January 26, 2004, citing the bipartisan 9/11 Commission report as describing in unambiguous terms that some relationship has existed between Iran --- the world's most prominent sponsor of global Islamist terror --- and al Qaeda. Excerpt (emphasis added):
While it found no operational ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has concluded that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network had long-running contacts with Iraq's neighbor and historic foe, Iran.

Al Qaeda, the commission determined, may even have played a "yet unknown role" in aiding Hezbollah militants in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia, an attack the United States has long blamed solely on Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors.

The notion that bin Laden may have had a hand in the Khobar bombing would mark a rare operational alliance between Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups that have historically been at odds.

Furthermore, other credible sources have claimed proof of Iran's relationship with, and support for al Qaeda is actually far more extensive than this article would indicate, despite the fact that they observe different strains of Islam --- a fact that a few minutes on the Google reveals:
May 22, 2007: Noted terrorism researcher-analyst Steven Emerson described this relationship --- and the fact that despite their religious differences, Iran and al Qaeda have been collaborating on their shared mission to advance Islamism via global jihad, here.

February 22, 2003: The nonpartisan Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published an article, Top Iranian Defector On Iran's Collaboration with Iraq, North Korea, Al-Qa'ida, and Hizbullah, here.

July 24, 2004: NPR hosted a discussion, "Studying the Iran-Al Qaeda Connection," here. The program summary: "One of the more unnerving findings in the Sept. 11 commission's report was evidence of a connection between Iran and al Qaeda operatives. Hear NPR's Brian Naylor, terrorism expert Jessica Stern and Iran specialist Dr. Gary Sick of Columbia University."

January 17, 2003: Regarding al Qaeda's relationship with both Iran and Iraq, Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, published an article, "Ansar Al-Islam: Iraq's Al-Qaeda Connection," here.

Numerous links to other credible sources (and reporting) from 2004, establishing the link between al Qaeda and Iran can be found here.

Is there a question as to how deep, and how extensive the ties run between Iran and al Qaeda? Yes.

Is there even a single credible source that supports Mr. Stein's blanket assertion that "
there is no known connection between" Iran and al Qaeda? No.

Could Mr. Stein, who holds
a Master's Degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, really be unaware of the credible sources listed above --- or of how to use the Google? Or did he just decide to not include them in his article?

Only he can answer these questions. Perhaps one day, someone in a position of influence will ask him to do so.

Returning now to HuffPost itself, did it publish a correction or clarification to Mr. Stein's slam on McCain, based on his passive or willful ignorance of one of the central facts in his article?

Instead, the very next day, April 7, 2008, HuffPost put an almost unbelievably incendiary --- and also false --- headline regarding McCain, right at the top of its site, as is documented here.

And as is and will continue to be documented here at Huff-Watch, these were far from isolated incidents. Throughout the 2008 campaign, HuffPost repeatedly used its headlines and headline-imagery to smear Sen. McCain based on misleading statements, at best --- and easily-disproved falsehoods, at worst.


ADDENDUM 1, February 9, 2009: Stein gets to ask a question at Obama's first press conference; asks about something not dealing with subject of the conference

Excerpted from The political evolution and "legitimization" of HuffPost

February 9, 2009 was the watershed moment in HuffPost's political "legitimization."
For it was on that date that President Obama, after taking a few questions from (legitimate) news organizations at the end of his first prime-time press conference, decided to pass over the remaining assembled domestic and international journalists -- and instead, picked HuffPost's Sam Stein to ask a question.

It's worthwhile to note that the topic of this press conference was America's economic crisis. So what did Stein ask Obama? If he's going to consider prosecuting President Bush for, among other things, "war crimes."
“Today, Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal, and are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?”

Even Time magazine pointed out at the time, that HuffPost is "unapologetically unobjective" in its "journalism."

What we at Huff-Watch find particularly amusing is how, while HuffPost's Comment Policy prohibits "off-topic" comments --- yet routinely allows its comment threads to be engulfed with comments discussing everything but the topic at hand (more) --- it similarly allowed its Washington, DC reporter to ask an off-topic question in his first opportunity with the President of the United States.


ADDENDUM 2, December 23, 2009: Osama bin Laden's family discovered to be living in protected status in... Iran

According to the TimesOnline (UK)
Osama bin Laden’s missing family found in secret compound in Iran

Excerpt (emphasis added):
Osama bin Laden’s closest relatives are living in a secret compound in Iran, members of the family said last night. They include a wife and children who disappeared from his Afghan camp at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

There has been uncertainty about the family’s whereabouts for the past eight years, with reports that some of the children had been killed in bombings, while others had joined their father in planning terrorist attacks. However, relatives said that they found out last month that the group, including one of Osama’s wives, six of his children and 11 of his grandchildren, had been kept in a high-security compound outside Tehran.

They have been prevented from contacting the outside world while Iran has repeatedly denied that any of the relatives were living in the country.


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