Time magazine refused to publish responses to Klein's false smears

Both Sen. Feingold and Rep. Holt asked to respond to Joe Klein's falsehoods. Both were blocked from doing so. UPDATE: Chairmen Conyers and Reyes, and Sen. Dodd, add their protests.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published December 4, 2007 5:27PM (EST)

(Updated below - Update II - Update III)

The disgraceful behavior of Time Magazine in the Joe Klein scandal has been well-documented. But new facts have emerged that reveal that Time's behavior was far worse than previously thought.

First, Sen. Russ Feingold submitted a letter to Time protesting the false statements in Klein's article. But Time refused to publish it. Sen. Feingold's spokesman said that the letter "was submitted to TIME very shortly after Klein's column ran but the letters department was about as responsive as the column was accurate."

Just to reveal how corrupt that behavior is, The Chicago Tribune -- which previously published the factually false excerpts of Klein's column and then clearly retracted them -- yesterday published Feingold's letter. As Feingold details -- but had to go to the Chicago Tribune's Letter section to do it -- "Klein calls the Democrats' position on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 'well beyond stupid' but without getting his facts straight." Feingold also said that "Klein is also flat out wrong" in his false claims that there was some "bipartisan agreement" on a bill to vest "new surveillance powers" that House Democrats ignored.

Second, Rep. Rush Holt -- before he published his response in The Huffington Post detailing Klein's false claims -- asked that he be given the opportunity to respond to Klein's false column directly on Time's Swampland, where Klein was in the process of making all sorts of statements compounding his errors. But Time also denied Rep. Holt the opportunity to bring his response to the attention of Time's readers.

According to Zach Goldberg, Rep. Holt's spokesman: "Rep. Holt had an email exchange with Mr. Klein about FISA and his column. During the exchange, Rep. Holt made a request to respond with a Swampland post to clarify what is really in the RESTORE Act. Mr. Klein noted he already issued a public apology and did not accept the request."

Let's just ponder for a second how lowly Time's behavior here is. It refused the requests of two sitting members of Congress, both of whom are members of the Intelligence Committees and have played a central role in drafting the pending FISA legislation, to correct Klein's false statements in Time itself. What kind of magazine smears its targets with patently false statements and then blocks them from responding?

Making matters much worse is the fact that, as we now know, Klein's false statements about the House Democrats' FISA bill were basically ghost-written by GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra. Klein never quoted a single Democratic proponent of that bill -- not in his original false article, nor his multiple Swampland posts, nor the three separate "corrections" published by Time.

The whole episode was a GOP-fueled smear on Democrats. Yet Time nonetheless refused to allow Congressional Democrats with the greatest knowledge of this matter to bring to the attention of Time's readers how false Klein's statements were, and how false the subsequent "corrections" were. To describe Time's behavior is to illustrate how profoundly unethical it is.

Third, at least 100 individuals wrote letters to Time's editors protesting Klein's article and responding to its claims. I know this because that's how many people (at least) cc'd me on their letters, forwarded them to me, and/or copied their Letters to the Editor in the Comment section here. Managing Editor Rick Stengel's voice mail and email box overflowed with responses.

Nonetheless, Time -- while publishing 15 separate letters on a whole array of topics in its print edition this week -- did not see fit to publish a single letter about the Klein falsehoods. At every step, they sought to hide from their readers -- and continue to hide from their readers -- just how outrageous and severe were Klein's false statements by suppressing all responses.

Finally, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post and CNN -- who dives head-first into every right-wing blog controversy -- has been completely mute about the Klein/Time scandal, even though it was one of the central focuses of blogs for more than a full week and relates directly to the media criticism issues he is ostensibly assigned to cover. Worse, Kurtz has now been asked about this matter by multiple readers in two consecutive weekly Monday chats he hosts at the Post, but has refused to take a single question about it.

Yesterday, at least 15 people submitted questions to Kurtz on the Time/Klein scandal -- again, I know this because that's how many people emailed me their questions or left them in comments -- and not a single one was chosen. Kurtz, however, found time to address multiple questions on such pressing matters as the new Don Imus Show and football.

It's hardly difficult to understand why Kurtz has joined with the Time editors to steadfastly suppress any effort to expose the behavior of Klein and Time:

Time published blatantly false statements from Klein, refused (and refuses) to retract them, and then bolstered those false claims with a further false claim that Klein had a solid basis for making them. Worse still, they refused to allow even a Senator and a Congressman on the Intelligence Committees -- who were the targets of Klein's smears -- to defend themselves and explain in Time why Klein's accusations were false.

And they (and their corporate minions such as Kurtz) are taking every step possible to ensure that their readers never become aware of what happened. Is it time yet to hear more about how dangerous bloggers are because they operate with no standards?

UPDATE: I just learned that in addition to all of the above, a letter was also sent to Time jointly from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes. Although they communicated with Time in advance and advised them that the letter was coming, Time has not published this letter either.

Prior to posting this, I asked Time to comment on these matters and was told they "will get back to [me] as soon as possible." I wasn't interested in waiting longer, so I sent the Time PR person a link to this column and advised her that "unlike Time, I'm happy to post a comment in response to this." If and when I receive a response from Time, I will post it.

UPDATE II: Several days ago, I appeared on Counterspin, the syndicated radio show of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), to discuss the Time/Klein scandal. Those interested can hear the interview here. It begins at roughly 9:30 into the recording.

UPDATE III: Rep. Conyers, one of the lead authors of the RESTORE Act which Time falsely maligned, last night sent out a mass email, which is now also posted on his website. Entitled "Setting the Record Straight on FISA," Conyers' email excoriates Klein's column as "only the most recent manifestation of disinformation put forth concerning the Bush Administration's warrantless surveillance" and mocks Klein's "subsequent stumbling efforts to clarify [his] intent."

Conyers also extensively details "the misinformation in the Time Magazine column" and specifically singles out "Time Magazine's failure to publish the protests my Democratic colleagues and I had regarding its many inaccuracies." Just as Sen. Feingold and Rep. Holt did, Conyers also completely debunks one of the claims Klein simply invented out of whole cloth: namely, that there was some sort of "bipartisan effort" which this bill "quashed." And Conyers describes exactly how this all happened: "Republican sources seem to have spun a tale that led Mr. Klein to characterize our efforts as more than 'stupid.'"

I also obtained a copy of the Conyers/Reyes letter which Time failed to publish, in which the Committee Chairmen methodically demonstrated that Klein's assertions about their bill are "incorrect" and that Klein was clearly "confused" as a result of not "having studied the RESTORE Act" on which he "reported." Similarly, Sen. Chris Dodd also wrote a letter to Time this week objecting to the "incorrect information about FISA legislation" in Klein's column and he, too, highlights how the bill's actual provisions are the exact opposite of what Klein told Time's readers.

That's now two House Committee Chairmen (who jointly drafted the bill which Klein smeared), a key Senator on the Intelligence Committee, a key Congressman on the Intelligence Committee, and a presidential candidate whose campaign is centered around these issues, not to mention hundreds of Time readers (at least) -- all objecting to the outright and still-uncorrected falsehoods spewed by Time and Joe Klein, with many now also protesting the subsequent cover-up behavior of the magazine's editors. How much longer can Time, and their friends in the establishment press, continue to ignore this oozing journalistic scandal?

Glenn Greenwald

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