Friday, August 8, 2008

No correction or retraction so far from AP...

...on the falsehood-heavy 'Iran nukes' report by Steven Gutkin.

At least, as far as I can tell. But in the meantime, to shed a little light on the kind of folks we're dealing with here...

I first spoke to the international desk over the phone early yesterday morning. The lady on the other end tried to tell me the report only claimed that Israel was worried that Iran would be able to get "the bomb"; so I pointed out, one by one, each sentence, including the headline, where Gutkin falsely stated as fact that Iran has nuclear weapons, or is building them.

Unable to make me act the sucker, she gave me another, more pertinent phone number of an AP desk in NYC: 1-212-621-6060. Well, as it turned out, that number connected to a recorded RSVP service for a local ASCAP convention at the Ritz Carlton Hotel — Miami Beach, Florida. The convention was held on May 16.

This, folks, is the world's "largest and most trusted source of independent news and information."

Anyhow, when I called again a few hours later, I spoke to a different rep, this time a man. When asked about the bad phone number, he said he had no idea why she gave me that number. When asked about the "Iran nukes" issue, he said that they were "getting a good number of calls" and emails on it, and that "they" (Gutkin et al., I assumed) are "looking at it."

Which, of course, is complete bullshit. It's a simple question of whether you lie to your readers or you don't. And once you know you have been busted, what do you do.

Well, so far I know what AP has done. No email reply. No correction. No retraction. No big surpise:

We traveled to AP's control bureau in Israel. With our own video camera out and running, we asked bureau chief Steve Gutkin about this incident. Was the information we had been told correct, or did he have a different version? Did the bureau have the video, or had they indeed erased it. If so, why?

Gutkin, repeatedly looking at the camera and visibly flustered, told us that AP did not allow its journalists to give interviews. He told us that all questions must go to Corporate Communications, located in New York. He explained that they were on deadline and couldn't talk. I said I understood deadline pressure, and sat down to wait until they were done. When he called Israeli police to arrest us, we left. [Alison Weir, "AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy," CounterPunch, March 2006]

Thanks to,, and others for helping to spread the word on this episode of criminally-yellow journalism. I'm sure your hopes weren't too high either. After all, the AP report has been issued, re-issued over and over, circulated to tens of thousands of news outlets of all media types, and consumed by the billions. It's that popular "damage done" technique, par excellance.

But how much humility and integrity does it take for a major news service to publicly correct and retract such huge and dangerous errors? (Then again, this is AP we're talking about.)

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