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May 2, 2018 2:05 pm

New York Times Offers a Theatrical Denunciation of Netanyahu’s Iran Speech

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

When did Iran wind down its nuclear weapons program?

The May 2 New York Times offers two different answers in light of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation of reams of intelligence information regarding Iran’s secret nuclear program.

A front-page Times news article refers to an American assessment that “concluded that Iran suspended its nuclear program in early 2004.”

A Times editorial, however, claims, “In fact, Mr. Netanyahu confirmed what American intelligence agencies revealed in 2007: Iran had suspended the active portion of a nuclear weapons program in 2003.”

Think it’s pedantic to make a fuss about the difference between 2003 and 2004 when the two numbers are, after all, right next to each other on a computer keyboard?

Well, the Times itself makes a big fuss about the difference between “has” and “had” in a White House statement, even though “s” and “d,” like “3” and “4,” are next to each other on a keyboard.

From the Times news article:

In a sign of the administration’s tough line on Iran, [Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee] Sanders brushed aside a potentially dangerous typo in its initial statement on Monday evening about the Israeli disclosures. The statement said, “Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”

White House officials later said that was a clerical error and that it should have said “Iran had a robust” program.

From the Times editorial:

Mr. Netanyahu’s data dump created the illusion of fresh incrimination, which the Trump White House indulged by issuing a statement that said Iran “has a robust clandestine nuclear weapons program.” Only later did the White House correct that to read “had” a weapons program.

At least the White House corrected itself, which is more than can be said for the Times, which, at least as this article was filed, was still publishing uncorrected the news article and the editorial with the conflicting dates.

Not in the print newspaper, but only in Bret Stephens’ online column, does the Times get into the highly relevant matter of what happened in 2003. As Stephens put it: “They shelved much of their nuclear program in 2003 after the U.S. invaded Iraq.”

Aside from the date discrepancy, the editorial and the news article seem broadly on the same page, with the news article describing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presentation as “dramatic” and “theatrical,” and the editorial also describing it as “theatrical.” What’s really theatrical is watching the Times editorial writers try to draw a moral equivalence between Iran’s behavior and that of Israel and the United States, with innuendos like “Iran isn’t the region’s only destabilizing force.” Come to think of it, the Times might try assigning its theater critics to cover the Iran issue. It’s hard to imagine they could do any worse than the current crew of editorial writers.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of the Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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