Slate's Isaac Chotiner conducted what is called a "testy" interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about his 10,000-word story published in the latest London Review of Books.
In the article, Hersh called into question the Obama administration's account of the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 -- in particular, the circumstances around and necessity of the raid in which he was killed. Although both NBC and Agency France-Presse have corroborated some elements of Hersh's story, no major news organization is willing to lend credence to what Chotiner believes is its most explosive claim, i.e. that President Barack Obama lied about the raid.
In his interview with Chotiner -- which the veteran journalist warned would be difficult, given that he is "really irritable" -- Hersh briefly discussed some of the sourcing issues critics have had with the story, but seemed more interested in berating his interviewer for asking him about the current state of journalism, when all he really wants to talk about, it appeared, is the current state of journalism.
"I just want to talk to you about your piece and journalism," Chotiner said.
Hersh replied, "what difference does it make what the fuck I think about journalism? I don’t think much of the journalism that I see. If you think I write stories where it is all right to just be good enough, are you kidding?"
"Whatever it is," he continued, "it’s an impossible question. It’s almost like you are asking me to say that there are flaws in everybody. Yes. Do I acknowledge that not everybody can be perfect? But I am not backing off anything I said."
Chotiner used this opportunity to take a different approach, asking "Is there a problem with journalists having a limited number of sources, just generally speaking? Is this a problem?"
"Are you kidding me?" Hersh said, again. "Unnamed sources? You are smarter than that. This is too boring."
When Chotiner asked if there was any truth to the rumor that the New Yorker declined to publish a version of the story, he admitted that when he brought it took David Remnick, the New Yorker editor suggested it turn it into a blog post.
"Go fuck yourself! A blog? I have done a couple blogs when it is 1,000 words but this is worth more," Hersh said, before asking Chotiner whether he really wanted "to write about this totally tedious shit? Yes, I am a huge pain in the ass. I am the one that decided to publish it wherever the hell I please. That’s the story. You want to listen to hall gossip about me? Go ahead."
When Chotiner pointed out that there was a contradiction in Hersh's account about the difference between publishing in the New Yorker and the London Review of Books, Hersh said "I'm glad you are confused," confessed that "I don't mean to yell at you but I feel good doing it," then hung up the phone.