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April 19, 2016 11:09 am

Latest Cohen Column in New York Times Carries Two Blatant Errors

avatar by Ira Stoll

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New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. Photo: Twitter.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. Photo: Twitter.

In an opinion column in the New York Times, Roger Cohen praises Bernie Sanders’ positions on Israel. Mr. Cohen is entitled to his opinion, but not to his own facts, and at least two of the “facts” he marshals in his piece are clearly incorrect.

Mr. Cohen writes, “A suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Monday was a further escalation in the simmering violence of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.”

When the Times column was published, no fatalities had been reported in the bus bombing. Can it be a “suicide bomber” if the bomber isn’t killed? The Times news article about the attack does not describe it as a “suicide bombing”; to the contrary, it quotes a police official as saying, “The police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the blast, including whether one of the people who was wounded had brought the bomb onto the bus.”

As far as I can tell, it isn’t yet clear whether it was even an attempted suicide bombing; the bomber may have been hoping to survive the attack. The column would be more accurate if it referred simply to a “bombing” or to a “bus bombing,” rather than to a “suicide bombing.”

Second, Mr. Cohen writes that the Iran nuclear deal “won congressional approval.” That’s not accurate, either. Opponents of the deal failed to muster the supermajority of votes in both houses of Congress that were needed to block it. The key vote in the Senate was 56 to 42, with 42 senators siding with the deal and 56 opposed. In the House, the vote was 162 in favor of the Iran deal and 269 against it. The New York Times itself reported the vote at the time in its news columns under the accurate and truthful headline, “House Rejects Iran Nuclear Deal.” For Mr. Cohen, less than a year later, miraculously to transform that rejection into “approval” is an inaccuracy that demands a correction, just as the suicide-bombing reference does.

No one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. The test of the Times in this case will be whether it forthrightly and promptly corrects the errors in this column, or whether it enters its more usual defensive crouch, pretending to perfection and refusing to acknowledge its mistakes. We shall see.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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