Sunday, May 15, 2005

Newsweek: Sorry About That

Newsweek (sort of) apologizes for running a erroneous story about US soldiers flushing a Koran down the toilet in order to humiliate detainees and to get them to talk--a story which sparked outrage, condemnation, and death throughout the Middle East.

[Editor Mark] Whitaker told Reuters that Newsweek did not know if the reported toilet incident involving the Koran ever occurred. "As to whether anything like this happened, we just don't know," he said in an interview. "We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either."

This last line sounds like something out of a parody. (I'm not saying absolutely that Mark Whitaker dressed up like a space alien on Thursday night and terrorized the children in his neighborhood--but I can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either.) But there's nothing funny about this. Ideas have consequences--and so do media reports. In this case, the consequences were deadly.

In the issue due out on newstands on Monday, Whitaker writes: "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

As John Miller writes over at The Corner: "Several people need to lose their jobs over the magazine's huge error in falsely reporting on the Koran being destroyed at Guantanamo Bay. At least Jayson Blair's reporting never killed anybody."

Update: I think Instapundit is right: "People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad."