Jeffrey Goldberg's fabrication on NPR

More rank dishonesty from the Atlantic writer

Published August 20, 2010 10:21AM (EDT)

(updated below   Update II - Update III - Update IV)

This is really quite strange.  Yesterday, my inbox began filling up with email telling me that Jeffrey Goldberg had gone on NPR and, when asked about my critiques of his Atlantic article on bombing Iran, claimed I had "retracted" part of what I had written.  When I read the first couple emails, I assumed the emailers had heard it incorrectly or were mischaracterizing Goldberg's remarks, because not only had I never issued any retraction of those criticisms, but I never wrote anything remotely close to what could possibly be misconstrued that way:  I never even hinted that anything I had written was inaccurate, because it wasn't.  I was reasonably sure that even Jeffrey Goldberg wouldn't simply fabricate such an event of that significance and announce it as fact on NPR as a way of discrediting a critic.  But sure enough, once the audio was posted by NPR and I listened to it, I found -- genuinely, perhaps naïvely, to my amazement -- that what the emailers described is exactly what happened.

A caller asked Goldberg about the glaring contradiction between what he wrote in 2002 and his current Iran article regarding the efficacy of the 1981 Israeli air strike on Iraq -- a contradiction first flagged last week by Jonathan Schwarz, amplified on two consecutive days by me, and affirmed by several others who understood the contradiction the same way, including Harper's Ken Silverstein.  After Goldberg responded to the caller (the caller's remarks begin at 43:30), the program's host, Tom Ashbrook, specifically asked Goldberg about my Salon article where I raised that contradiction:

GOLDBERG: . . . . I think [the caller's] just misreading the article.

ASHBROOK:  Glenn Greenwald, I think, was writing about that in his--

GOLDBERG [interrupting]:  Yeah, but then he retracted it once I pointed out the mistake.

Ashbrook then asked Goldberg about another part of my critique and Goldberg responded:  "I think of Glenn Greenwald as a humor columnist, so I'm not really going to respond.  If you look at Glenn Greenwald and what he stands for, he despises all mainstream journalism and attacks every journalist who reports something he disagrees with ideologically."  That last part is fine with me:  just some run-of-the-mill, angry, accusatory rhetoric toward a critic.  But going on NPR and claiming that I "retracted" part of my criticism of his Atlantic article -- when I never did anything remotely like that -- is anything but run-of-the-mill; it's pathological.

Last night, I emailed Goldberg, told him I intended to write about this, and asked him to point to what he was talking about, since I am quite sure no such thing ever happened.  He responded by acknowledging that no such thing had happened and apologized gracefully enough ("You're right, I'm wrong. My apologies"), but then -- assuming I'd be writing about this -- went to his blog and preempted it with a backhanded admission of error (cleverly titled:  "Glenn Greenwald and Saddam Hussein") which essentially distracts attention away from his total fabrication by accusing me of refusing to retract a false charge ("I mistakenly said that I thought Greenwald had retracted a particularly dumb charge leveled against me . . . Glenn sent me an e-mail in which he noted that he had not retracted the charge, even after I pointed out to him that it was false."). 

I'm not going to re-visit Goldberg's conflicting claims about the Israeli strike -- which just oh-so-coincidentally happened to be expressed each time so as to justify a new war -- because I wrote twice about it just recently, as did several others.  Beyond that, how could my argument be "false" when even Goldberg claims, both in his original response and in his email to me last night (published here), that the apparent contradiction was a by-product of his being unclear in what he wrote?  I apologize for taking up readers' time by writing about this episode; I affirmatively do not want to play lowly insult-ping-pong with Jeffrey Goldberg.  It's almost impossible to respond to things like this without being dragged down to Goldberg's level.  But just think about it:  someone goes on NPR and, when asked by the host about criticisms directed at him, just blurts out that the critic "retracted" the criticism -- a fairly serious charge -- when he must know that that claim is a total fabrication.  

This didn't happen five years ago, lending itself to a faulty memory.  It happened just last week -- literally eight days ago.  And it's not as though I backtracked on this claim and now it's just a semantic dispute about whether it should be called a "retraction."  I wrote about this only twice:  the first time to highlight the contradiction and the very next day to re-affirm it and elaborate on it in response to Jim Fallows' defense of Goldberg.  I know Goldberg read what I wrote because he responded to it.  Nothing like what he said on NPR ever happened.  It's just a total figment of his imagination, a complete fabrication.  Who does something like that?  Does Jeffrey Goldberg -- one of our nation's most Serious Middle East "reporters" -- ever tell the truth about anything?


UPDATE:  Goldberg responds, playing the victim role.  He falsely accused me on NPR of issuing a retraction and now he's the wronged party, claiming he merely "confused me with someone else," presumably "someone else" who issued a retraction last week (who?).  Feel free to read his response and form your own judgment.  He also complains that I "posted our private e-mail exchange, without asking [him] if that would be okay."  There was nothing "private" about our email exchange; my whole point in emailing him, as I made explicitly clear, was that I intended to write about this episode and wanted to include his response in what I wrote.  The whole exchange was entirely on the record.  It's just amazing how devoted to the Cult of Secrecy so many self-proclaimed journalists are.


UPDATE II:  For more on Goldberg's style of "journalism," see Robert Wright's scathing analysis last week in The New York Times.  And I do hope NPR issues its own retraction of Goldberg's false claim.


UPDATE III:  This Sunday's roundtable on Meet the Press will be conservative Rick Lazio, conservative Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, journalist Katty Kay of the BBC, and, for balance . . . the well-known liberal Jeffrey Goldberg.  Ladies and Gentleman:  your Liberal (and Supremely Accountability-Free) Media. 

Also, the Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf details the numerous flaws in Goldberg's "reporting."



Jeffrey Goldberg, today:  "I just noticed that Glenn Greenwald posted our private e-mail exchange, without asking me if that would be okay. Very nice."

Jeffrey Goldberg, June 25, 2010, threatening to publish emails from Journolist:  "Nothing is really off-the-record.  No conversation between more than two people is ever really off-the-record, and no e-mail is ever, ever off-the-record . . . . I've been leaked postings from JournoList before -- wonderfully charming things written about me, as you might have guessed -- and I haven't had the opportunity to use them, but would be happy to if the need arose" (h/t Daniel 1976c).

Apparently, for some people, the prevailing ethical standards depend on whose emails are being published and who is doing the publishing.  If any type of email is on-the-record and usable, it's one where someone writes and says:  I plan on writing about X and would like your reaction.

By Glenn Greenwald

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