Michelle Malkin updates her readers today on the lies of Jimmy Massey:
Two newspapers, the Modesto Bee and the Sacramento Bee, did the right thing this weekend and published lengthy explanations of how and why they came to publish the unverified claims of former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, the anti-war Left’s favorite slanderer of American troops.
Here are the two pieces in which they admit their mistakes:
On May 30, 2004, we published on this page a commentary about an Iraq war veteran named Jimmy Massey, who claimed that he witnessed his fellow Marines killing innocent Iraqi civilians during fighting the year before.
The piece, written by a Bay Area freelancer, was a condensed version of a question-and-answer article that appeared in The Sacramento Bee two weeks earlier.[…]Last weekend, 18 months after our original piece, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a front-page story contending that Massey exaggerated and fabricated some of his claims about atrocities committed by U.S. troops.
Among the incidents the Post-Dispatch story challenged were at least two that were mentioned in the commentary in our paper.
A second Post-Dispatch story focused on the media that had published Massey’s claims without trying to verify their veracity. One of the editors quoted was David Holwerk, editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee, who said he wished that they had done a more thorough job of checking on the freelance submission.
I will say the same thing for us.
We relied on our colleagues in Sacramento but should have done our own verification. Sacramento did confirm with Massey the responses in the commentary, but it did not seek a response from the Marine Corps.
Around the country, other media are guilty of the same failures.
This week, columnists and others have picked up on these failures and the discrepancies noted in the Post-Dispatch story. Today, the attention is as much on the media as it is on Massey’s allegations.
We’re making readers fully aware of all this for two reasons: First, we want to acknowledge the damage done to our credibility because we failed to check out adequately the information that appeared in our publication. Second, we want to assure you that we have learned from this experience and will beef up procedures to prevent a painful repeat.
Here is the Sacramento Bee:
[…]Last Sunday, the Post-Dispatch published a story in which reporter Harris raised serious questions about Massey’s credibility. And, because The Bee ran an article in Forum in May 2004 in which Massey said that he and other Marines committed atrocities in Iraq, that raises serious questions about The Bee’s performance.
Harris quoted me in his Post-Dispatch story as saying, “I feel fairly confident that we did not subject this to the rigorous scrutiny that we should have or to which we would subject it today.”
That’s accurate. We should have done more to check the truth of Massey’s charges before deciding whether to publish them. We didn’t, and the responsibility for that is mine.
It was an error in judgment, and The Bee’s readers are entitled to an explanation of how I made that error.
The chain of events began in April 2004, when Paul Rockwell submitted an article to The Bee. Rockwell is a librarian and freelance writer who lives in Oakland. His work had appeared in Forum twice before – once in July 1999 and again in June 2001. He sent the article on Massey to Bill Moore, who was then editor of the Forum section.
The article was a lengthy question-and-answer interview with Jimmy Massey, a Marine staff sergeant from North Carolina. In it Massey claimed to have witnessed and participated in the killing of innocent civilians in Iraq.
That’s the kind of story that gets an editor’s attention. It’s also the kind of story no editor just slaps in the paper.
I asked Moore a number of questions and asked him to take steps to check Massey’s credibility. Moore contacted Massey to verify that Rockwell had quoted him accurately and to obtain a copy of Massey’s discharge papers. Moore also checked with the Pentagon to verify that Massey had been where he claimed to be when he claimed to be there.
The answers to those questions jibed with Massey’s story. He was in Iraq at the places and times he said he was. His record with the Marines was what he claimed it had been. He was a decorated combat veteran. He had been honorably discharged.
So far, so good. The problem is that we didn’t go far enough. Before we published the story, we should have called the Marine Corps for response. We also could have attempted to speak to other members of Massey’s Marine unit and to check whether any reporters were embedded with Massey’s company. But we didn’t.
Nonetheless, after some internal discussion, I decided that Massey was a credible source with a riveting story to tell and that we would publish the story, which we did on May 16, 2004. The story sparked a number of letters, some questioning the credibility of Massey’s story. We published five letters about the story – two of them critical – and that was that, until about three weeks ago.
That’s when reporter Harris called. He told me he was working on a story about Massey and identified himself as having been embedded with Massey’s unit in Iraq. He told me that neither he nor other embedded journalists had seen any evidence of the atrocities Massey alleged and that other members of Massey’s unit had told him the incidents never occurred. He also told me the Marine Corps had investigated Massey’s allegations and had concluded they were baseless.
He said a number of news organizations had published some version of Massey’s accounts. (Among the ones he named are the Associated Press, USA Today and the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, along with smaller newspapers around the country.) And he asked how The Bee had decided to publish the interview with Massey with no other sources, no response from the Marine Corps and no independent corroboration.
After I looked up the story, I told him the truth: It was clear in retrospect that we hadn’t done due diligence with the Jimmy Massey interview.[…]And I can say this much: I should have insisted that we do more to check out Massey’s account before it ran in The Bee. Without such checking, we should not have published the story.
Our editing and fact-checking processes are better than they were 17 months ago, and I’m confident we wouldn’t make the same error in judgment now. But I made one in May 2004, and there’s no disputing the truth of that.
So it’s all good now? Come on, we all know why they didn’t do any due diligence on this story. They hate Bush so much that they will run with anything at all that makes him look bad. But now they will apologize when they get caught.
They find a few things that seem to be true then run with the story, after that it’s up to you to prove them wrong. But when it’s a story that attacks the left they will fact check the hell out of the story and attempt to prove it all wrong. Do they not think we notice that every single story that is proven false due to the lack of due diligence is a story that advances the left’s talking points.
Michelle point’s us to an article that states pretty much the same thing:
November 10, 2005 — It’s easy to see why Jimmy Massey be came an instant darling of the liberal news media: With his personal testimony that he and his fellow Marines, acting under direct orders, committed war crimes, he was the Iraq war’s iteration of Jane Fonda and John Kerry.
And equally truthful.
Scores of media outlets rushed his claims into print, under such headlines as: “I killed innocent people for our government.” He was a featured guest on National Public Radio, and college officials fell all over themselves in the stampede to invite him as a guest speaker.
Pretty soon, he’d published a book, “Kill, Kill, Kill,” which was released in ? surprise, surprise ? France. And he became a star attraction on Cindy Sheehan’s national self-pity parade.
Sure, the Pentagon insisted his allegations had been probed and discredited. But no one paid any attention to that.
Not until last weekend, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that its own investigation showed conclusively that Massey, plain and simple, is a liar.
As the paper’s Ron Harris reported: “Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated ? according to his fellow Marines, Massey’s own admissions and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey’s unit.”
Even though his story “changed repeatedly” on each retelling, no one else in the mainstream media had shown any interest in looking any deeper into Massey’s claim that his battalion consisted of “psychopathic killers” who on one “unforgettable” occasion filled a tractor-trailer with the bodies of scores of Iraqi civilians.
Indeed, even his own supposed crime ? shooting a 6-year-old child in the head ? turns out to be a fantasy. Confronted by Harris, he claimed “that’s what my unit did” ? but couldn’t provide details. Nor could he name even a single Marine to corroborate any of his stories.
Massey, significantly, was discharged after suffering a nervous breakdown. In other words, he was what’s known as a Section Eight ? that is, crazy.
Both Harris and Michelle Malkin, whose column appears on the preceding page, asked several of the media outlets that had hyped Massey’s claim for a reaction.
(Typical was Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times-Union, who said “it would have been much better if we had the other side.” No kidding.)
These supposed news outlets published Massey’s claims without even trying to verify them ? or, in some cases, without even getting a pro forma response from the Pentagon.
During Vietnam, the news media promoted a similar showcase of the anti-war Left called “Winter Soldier,” which also featured first-person allegations of U.S. war crimes. Eventually, it came out that the claims were a total fraud.
Now, the same crowd is at it again. And, once again, their media allies are playing along.
How much more proof is needed that the mainstream media are nothing less than shrill propaganda outlets for the Bush-bashing anti-war crowd, willing ? almost eager ? to undermine the efforts of America’s fighting men and women?
One last thing, where is the apology to the Marine Corps?
They hate Bush so much that they will run with anything at all that makes him look bad. But now they will apologize when they get caught.