New York Times Iran Coverage: ‘Mind-Boggling,’ ‘Impossible To Parody’
President Trump’s decision to kill Qassem Soleimani is offering The New York Times an opportunity to put all its worst habits on display — and the newspaper’s many critics are having a field day pointing out the problems in the paper’s coverage.
Israel’s former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, took issue with an op-ed piece the Times published. Oren tweeted: “NY Times columnist Slavin claims ‘Soleimani’s killing will unleash chaos.’ Meaning the massacre of 500,000 Syrians, the creation of millions of refugees, the supply of tens of thousands of rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, and the backing of world terror was stability?”
An editor at The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto, pointed out an early version of a New York Times news article that described Mark Dubowitz as “chief executive of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank that supports a hard line against Iran.” Taranto tweeted, “they trot out ‘hawkish,’ ‘conservative’ AND ‘hard line,’ all in one sentence!” Taranto also noted that the Times quoted Robert Malley, a former Obama administration official, “without any ideological label.”
The Daily Wire, a site operated by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, compared a New York Times tweet about Soleimani, who the Times called “Iran’s master of intrigue and force” with a New York Times tweet about a football coach. That tweet noted that the football coach had been fined for barring a female reporter from a locker room. “Say what you will about Soleimani, but at least he never kept a female reporter out of a male locker room,” The Daily Wire drily observed.
Noah Pollak, a contributor to the Washington Free Beacon, cited a New York Times tweet that quoted an Iranian student saying, “Knowing General Soleimani was out there made me feel safer.” Pollak tweeted, “NYT is trying to turn a mass-murdering terrorist whose forces ethnically cleansed the Middle East into a provider of safe spaces. Mind-boggling.”
Omri Ceren, a foreign policy aide to Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, tweeted that the Times coverage was “literally impossible to parody.” Ceren observed: “The New York Times would like you to know that General Soleimani — always and repeatedly ‘General’ Soleimani — was the ‘universally admired’ ‘master of Iran’s intrigue and force,’ & that he made children feel safe in their beds & their love for him in return was in no way coerced.”
Writing in The Spectator, Dominic Green also ridiculed the “feel safer” quote in the Times from the Iranian student. “People who live under dictatorships tend to mouth the official line to foreign journalists,” Green observed. Iran expert Michael Ledeen described the crowds the Times seemed so impressed by as “a very big rent-a-mob,” observing, “of the 80 million inhabitants of Iran, probably 70 million are pleased that Suleimani is dead.”
To my mind, the Times coverage has indeed been ridiculous. It was on display even before Trump decided to take out Soleimani. A lengthy dispatch in the December 29 Times sought to blame David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger for triggering Iranian anti-American sentiment by pressing President Carter to admit the Shah to the US, which Carter did in October of 1979.
A friend who was in Tehran in the summer of 1979 tells me that crowds were shouting “death to America” in the streets even months before Carter’s decision. In December of 1978, Judith Miller reported for the Times about Khomeini’s contempt for Jews, Christians, democracy, and Israel — a fine foundation for anti-Americanism. The Rockefeller-Kissinger dispatch is significant because it points to a key principle that predates Trump’s action: the Times‘ tendency to blame America, instead of Iranian Islamist ideology, for Iranian anti-Americanism.
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.