Saturday, September 5, 2009

9/4/09: HuffPost essentially tells dead Marine's family, "F*&$ off, we're using your son's dying picture as our headline, over your objections"


Some critics of HuffPost --- which bills itself as "The Internet Newspaper" and a nonpartisan* source of news --- wondered if it could sink any lower. This incident gave them their answer.
(*See Myth #1 here)

On September 4, 2009, HuffPost ran the following as its front-page splash headline:

The headline linked to this story page.

The following is a summary of information that was publicly-available, and was or should have been known by HuffPost, before it made the decision to use this photo as its splash headline:
  • The photo is of Lance Corporal Joshua "Bernie" Bernard after he had been mortally wounded by a Taliban RPG in Afghanistan, and as his fellow Marines were trying desperately to save his life. LCpl. Bernard died of his injuries shortly thereafter at a field hospital.
    (Note: As the PDF of the story thread shows, HuffPost did not run the picture at right of LCpl. Bernard --- or any other... only the photo above.)

  • The photo of LCpl. Bernard, taken moments before his death, was captured by AP photographer Julie Jacobson, who was embedded with Bernard's unit. As BlackFive noted, Jacobson described the scene as follows: "He was hit with the RPG which blew off one of his legs and badly mangled the other. ... I hadn't seen it happen, just heard the explosion. I hit the ground and lay as flat as I could and shot what I could of the scene."

  • Michelle Malkin reported that all embedded photographers must sign an agreement stating that they will not release photos depicting the injury/death of a service member without his/her prior written consent, or without the family's consent.

  • The Politico reported that LCpl. Bernard's father pleaded with the AP to not release the Jacobson's photo of his son. More:
    "(Defense Secretary Robert) Gates wrote to Thomas Curley, AP’s president and chief executive officer. 'Out of respect for his family’s wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly. In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as was the case with Walter Reed'."

  • According to the AP itself, it "distributed the picture despite personal pleas from Gates and the dead Marine's family in a case that illustrated the difficult decisions in reporting on a conflict where Americans have seen relatively few images of fallen U.S. troops over eight years."

  • No other "news" source we are aware of used the photo of the death of LCpl. Bernard as a lead; many refused to use it at all, citing their desire to honor the wishes of his family.

The following are highlights of commentary published shortly after HuffPost made the decision to use the photo of L.C. Bernard's dying moments as its splash headline:

The photographer herself, in narration accompanying the slide show, says that she assumed the photo couldn't be disseminated because of the rules under which she was embedded. So it sounds as though she, at least, thought that the AP was breaching its contract by "choosing" to publish the photo. [...]

I suspect that what the AP really means is that it doesn't have enough opportunities to disseminate pictures that are used --- whatever the AP's intent may be --- as propaganda photos by left-wing organs like the Huffington Post.

One more thing about the AP's brave and unflinching commitment to the public's right to know the truth, however unpleasant the truth may be: the AP self-righteously refused to publish the Mohammed cartoons. Why? Because "we don't distribute content that is known to be offensive."

In the current case, the "content" was offensive to the dead Marine's family. As the AP acknowledged, Joshua Bernard's father begged the AP not to disseminate the photo, which he and his family thought was disrespectful to his son. But that's not what the AP means by "offensive." In this case, the AP was safe in the knowledge that if it ran the photo, the senior Bernard --- himself a retired Marine first sergeant --- wouldn't come looking for Tom Curley.

From HotAir:
The American Legion has issued a blistering statement about the Associated Press decision to publish a photo of a dying Marine over the objections of the Marine’s family. I received this directly from the Legion earlier this afternoon:
INDIANAPOLIS (September 4, 2009) – “Outrageously irresponsible,” is how the leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization characterized the Associated Press’s decision to release a photo of a dying U.S. Marine taken in Afghanistan.

“The lack of compassion and common decency shown by the Associated Press in releasing this photograph is stunning,” said American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill, a retired Navy captain. “Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard is a hero who gave his life for his country. His family is understandably offended. I have asked the American Legion state commander in Maine to reach out to his family. Indeed everybody in The American Legion stands with his family.”

From RedState:
(I) am beyond words. And the predictable Huffington Post, ever as vile as its Troll-doll namesake, Arianna, decided to unleash Greg Mitchell:
Going back to 2002, I have been writing about the shameful reluctance, even refusal, of U.S. media outlets to carry graphic images of the true cost of our wars, to Americans, in Iraq and Afghanistan — dead or even, in many cases, gravely wounded U.S. soldiers and Marines.

Earlier today, the Associated Press — bucking the wishes of the Pentagon and the victim’s family — decided to go ahead and transmit such a photo.

"OldBlue," an NCO deployed in Afghanistan (hat tip: BlackFive):
It’s about money, folks. Pure and simple. The same thing for Julie Jacobson, the photographer who was embedded with the Marines the day that LCpl Bernard was mortally wounded. Let’s see how she justifies this: Later, when she learned he had died, Jacobson thought about the pictures she had taken.
“To ignore a moment like that simply … would have been wrong. I was recording his impending death, just as I had recorded his life moments before walking the point in the bazaar,” she said. “Death is a part of life and most certainly a part of war. Isn’t that why we’re here? To document for now and for history the events of this war?”

Bullshit. She thought of the pictures she had taken and “$” came to mind immediately. “Jackpot!” her mind screamed instantly. She got paid for that picture, and she will continue to get paid for it for some time, especially after the furor that erupts. What would have been wrong for her was to set aside her money and an imagined chance for a Pulitzer.

Such selfishness and what a ridiculous attempt to couch it in ethical terms. Personally, she better hope that she never, ever runs into me or the most lightly she will come off from it will be ringing eardrums. Those poor Marines who saw her pictures later had no idea that she would be part of dishonoring LCpl Bernard’s father’s wishes, against DoD policy.

The young Marine’s father had asked not once, but twice, for the picture of his mortally wounded son not to be whored out for money. But his pleas fell on the deaf ears of whores who heard only the ringing of registers and saw the sparkle of money. In the information age the press is hurting for money, and this was a jackpot. [...]

There is one simple rule; your wishes mean nothing compared to the wishes of the family. Period. They make the sacrifices, not you. Their sacrifices and how they wish them to be dealt with are theirs, and not yours to make whatever statement (along with your money and a name for yourself) you care to claim to be making. I curse all you who were involved with this and I am your sworn enemy for life.

From Sarah Palin:

Many of us join Secretary Gates in condemning the Associated Press for its heartless and selfish decision to turn its back on the wishes of a grieving family in order to exploit the tragic death of a true American hero. Lance Corporal Joshua 'Bernie' Bernard was a selfless young American who sacrificed everything for our freedom. Shame on the AP for purposely adding to the grieving family's pain. Ignoring the family's wishes by publishing a sacred image of their loved one proved a despicable and heartless act by the AP. The family said they didn't want the photo published. AP, you did it anyway, and you know it was an evil thing to do. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bernard family. Words can not adequately express our sorrow and appreciation for your sacrifice. We will never forget your Marine or his fallen comrades. May God bless the Bernard family. -Sarah Palin


HuffPost had a choice to make:
  • To honor LCpl. Bernard's service, the pleadings of his family, and the legal terms under which this photo was obtained, and not publish it (even if the AP decided to violate both)

  • To dishonor LCpl. Bernard's service, essentially tell family to go f*&% themselves, and use the AP's shameful actions as a justification to publish this photo

In reality, HuffPost opted for a third choice --- to not only do all the things in the second choice, but to use this photo as part of a huge splash headline, thereby rubbing even more salt into the wound that the AP's betrayal opened.

This is far from an isolated incident at HuffPost.



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