- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

Last Friday, the New York Times ran a willfully misleading front-page story which mischaracterized Henry Kissinger's critical endorsement of President Bush's Iraq strategy. Combined with the intellectual slovenliness and pack instincts of much of the Washington press corps, the Times article could undermine support for the President's Iraq war aims which, of course, was the purpose of the article.
On Monday, Aug. 12, Henry Kissinger had delivered his considered opinion that Bush's plan for pre-emptive war against Iraq was justified. He carefully described the necessary diplomatic and follow-through details necessary for success. He even judged that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis would probably best be resolved by first defeating Iraq. As he put it, "the road to Jerusalem will [more likely] lead through Baghdad."
Faced with this formidable buttress of the President's plans, the New York Times on Friday, in its lead story by Todd S. Purdum and Patrick E. Tyler, offered up the headline "Top Republicans Break with Bush on Iraq Strategy." The first name they listed of the "leading Republicans" who were "breaking ranks with President Bush" was Mr. Kissinger. They sneakily reported that "These senior Republicans … . All say they favor the eventual removal of Saddam Hussein, but some say they are concerned … that Iraq is [not]an urgent threat." They didn't then mention that Mr. Kissinger was not one of the "some" who are concerned, etc. Not until over 700 words into the story (and deep in to the jump on Page A9), did they mention that Mr. Kissinger was actually in favor of a prompt war and supported pre-emption.
The other, lesser names mentioned in the article Brent Scowcroft, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Rep. Dick Armey actually had broken ranks. But most of the public haven't heard of them, and none have the worldwide prestige and respect of Mr. Kissinger. So, The New York Times kidnapped Mr. Kissinger's name and reputation on behalf of their opposition to the President's strategy.
While it is true that a careful reading of the 1000-plus-word article presented a fuller picture of Mr. Kissinger's opinion, the editors of the New York Times knew quite well that they need not worry about that. Most members of the reading public, and even more importantly, most members of the Washington and New York press corps weren't likely to read the full article. By mid-morning on Friday, leading Washington journalists and news producers were casually repeating to each other what they had gleaned from a quick glance at the headline and the first few paragraphs of the story.
When challenged on this misreading of the story, one prominent Washington journalist admitted that the false conclusion was not based on either reading Mr. Kissinger's article ("Kissinger's writing is so confusing") or reading the full Times piece. Actually, Mr. Kissinger writes with great clarity on complex issues. But it does take some intellectual rigor to follow his complex but lucid arguments. Later, MSNBC online was repeating as true this word-of-mouth reversal of Mr. Kissinger's true position. Another of the cable news networks was ready to headline this misreading until Mr. Kissinger's actual article was pointed out to one of their producers.
As the pre-eminent newspaper in America (and probably the world) the New York Times has a singular responsibility to get its stories right. News outlets around the world rely on the accuracy of its reporting and assume they are not being intentionally misled. It is one thing to add opinion to a news story. But to intentionally mislead and confuse its readers on the newspaper's top, right, above-the-fold front-page story (presumably a report on the most important event of the day) is a dangerous and disgraceful occurrence.
Curiously, the Times' lead editorial that day, on Page A18, which was on the same topic, got it factually right. It mentioned all the other dissenting Republicans, but never mentioned Mr. Kissinger.
The New York Times takes pride in being considered America's newspaper of record. This willful misrepresentation on a story of historic importance will leave a deep and perhaps indelible stain on that reputation.

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