Smell something rotten?

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's P.U.-litzer Awards for worst journalism gaffes

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By Peter Hart

OPINION At the end of every year, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting rounds up some of the stinkiest examples of corporate media malfeasance for its annual P.U.-litzer prizes. This year brought no shortage of contenders.

PROSECUTE THE MESSENGER AWARD: DIANE SAWYER (ABC NEWS)

On Oct. 22, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced a report on WikiLeaks' exposure of thousands of classified documents from the Iraq War. ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz summarized the contents of the WikiLeaks files: "Deadly U.S. helicopter assaults on insurgents trying to surrender ... The Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged ... Graphic detail about torture of detainees by the Iraqi military." After Raddatz's report, Sawyer offered this: "I know there's a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha, but tell me — anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?"

NEW EXCUSES FOR BOMBING IRAN AWARD: DAVID BRODER (THE WASHINGTON POST)

On Oct. 31, Washington Post columnist David Broder offered one way for Barack Obama to demonstrate leadership after the midterms — a war with Iran. He wrote: "With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran's ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve."

Broder insisted he was "not suggesting" inciting a war with Iran. He was merely saying it would bring the country together, fix the economy, and make Obama one of the greatest presidents of all time.

THE $250,000 MIDDLE AWARD: KIRAN CHETRY (CNN)

CNN anchor Kiran Chetry ("American Morning," 2/1/10) interviewing White House budget director Peter Orszag: "You also talk about letting taxes expire for families that make over $250,000. Some would argue that in some parts of the country, that is middle class." Back in reality, more than 98 percent of U.S. households make less than $250,000.

DISAPPEARING PALESTINIANS AWARD: THE NEW YORK TIMES

On The New York Times op-ed page (8/27/10), Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution gave one reason to be hopeful about peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: "First, violence is down considerably in the region." What he meant was that Israeli deaths were down. Completely unmentioned were the roughly 1,500 Palestinians who have been killed since the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008 — the vast majority minors or noncombatant adults, according to the Israel human rights group B'Tselem.

BALANCING TOLERANCE WITH HATE AWARD: WASHINGTON POST'S ON FAITH BLOG

On National Coming Out Day , Oct. 11, The Washington Post's On Faith blog decided it would be a good time to hear from raging homophobe Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Perkins penned a column attacking "homosexual activist groups" under the headline "Christian Compassion Requires the Truth About Harms of Homosexuality." The Post explained on Twitter that it was a matter of journalistic balance: "We're working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat." For the record, "It Gets Better" is Savage's campaign to combat suicides among queer youth. Who knew that was a point of view that needed balancing?

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