On August 31, Nitpicker reported that George Will was lying when he tried to smear Gen. Wesley Clark. Will, cribbing from this Weekly Standard article, wrote that there was no way that the general could have been contacted by someone from "a Middle East think tank in Canada" as he claimed. "There is no such Canadian institution," Will wrote.
I, however, pointed out three such institutions. Since then, The Clark Sphere has pointed out others, and Busy, Busy Busy and Spinsanity's Ben Fritz have also shown this statement to be, at best, in error and, at worst, a blatant lie.
The morning of August 31, I wrote an e-mail to The Washington Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler. I informed him of the error and the need to correct it. To date, no correction has been made. Yesterday morning, I sent the following message to several members of the Post staff:
Over a week ago, I sent an e-mail to your ombudsman which pointed out an error in a George Will column. Will, in attempting to smear General Wesley Clark, suggested that Clark's statement that a "fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank" was a lie. "There is no such Canadian institution," Will wrote.
As I pointed out in my previous e-mail, there are, actually, several "Canadian institutions" which could easily be called Canadian Middle East think tanks: B’Nai Brith Canada Institute for International Affairs; the Inter-University Consortium for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies; the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies; the Canadian-Arab Federation; and Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. These were found in just a few minutes using Google. Several of the organizations refer to themselves as think tanks dealing with Middle East issues right on their very own websites.
To this date, there has been no effort at retraction or correction of what was either an error on Will's part or an intentional lie. I hope that you will correct this soon.
Terry L. Welch
As of this morning, I had received no response and there was no correction in the paper, so I called Getler's office (202.334.7582). His voice-mail very kindly asks you to let him know if you'd like him to call you back. I indicated that I did. That was five hours ago and I still have received no response.
It took two years after the last election for columnists, reporters and other media types to start admitting how they treated Gore during the last election, people. Even though people who were paying attention knew that they were making up lies and spreading Republican talking points as fact, many of those who voted three in 2000 still believed that Al Gore had made up crazy lies about inventing the internet, being the model for a character in Love Story and "discovering" Love Canal's pollution problems. We can't let that kind of bullshit happen again.
This Clark smear is a shot across the general's bow. As Republicans do, they are simply making things up and throwing them at the opposition to see if it sticks. We have to make sure that every lie is corrected in the media outlet which spawned it. To that end, I ask everyone to call Michael Getler, to e-mail him (or someone on this page) and force them to correct this falsehood.
Update: I was just contacted by a nice woman named Carol, who said she was the ombudsman's secretary. She said that the letter had been forwarded to the editorial department and asked if I would like their number. "Of course," I answered. (It's 202.334.7471.)
Calling there, I spoke to a Ms. Wolff about the problem. I explained to her that there was a clearly provable error in fact on the editorial page and, despite numerous attempts at getting it fixed, it hadn't been corrected. She was unimpressed.
WOLFF: You should write a letter to the editor.
NITPICKER: I've done that. I did that 11 days ago and it hasn't been fixed.
WOLFF: Then you should write to George Will.
NITPICKER: I've done that, too. I've received no response and, frankly, I don't think he's interested in correcting his mistakes.
WOLFF: Well, that's a syndicated column and I don't know enough about the topic to say whether it's wrong or not.
NITPICKER: Yes, it is syndicated. By you! By the Post! And, as for the topic, it's an easy question: Are their Middle East-focused think tanks in Canada? A one minute search on the internet will show you that there are. Whether a column is syndicated or not, you ran a column in your paper that contained a major error-in-fact.
WOLFF: Um, if you've written a letter to the editor, then you've done what you're supposed to.
NITPICKER: But you haven't done what you're supposed to, which is issue a correction.
WOLFF: Well, you can send me a copy of your letter and I'll forward it to Fred.
NITPICKER: Who's Fred?
WOLFF: Fred Hyatt, the editorial editor.
NITPICKER: Well, why don't I just talk to him?
WOLFF: Um, he's in a meeting. If you send an e-mail, I'll forward it, but, since you've already sent a letter to the editor, I don't think they're going to run a correction.
Again, the number to the editorial section is 202.334.7471. Ask for Fred.
Update: I called Michael Getler back, because the fact that the newspaper doesn't want to run a correction seems to be the entire reason for having an ombudsman. He said that, if I sent him the exact complaint, he would run it up to editorial, but he "can't make them do anything."