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Jeffrey T. Kuhner

The Last Honest Man In Washington
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Distortions and lies at The New York Times

Issue Date: www.insightmag.com - Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2007, Posted On: 1/31/2007

David Kirkpatrick’s article on Insight’s Obama story (“Feeding Frenzy for a Big Story, Even if It’s False” published on Jan. 29, 2007) is a perfect example of the kind of mendacious and unethical journalism practiced at The New York Times.

Contrary to the article’s headline and frequent statements, there was nothing “false,” “discredited” or “dubious” about our article. Insight never claimed—not once—that Obama had attended an Indonesian Madrassa as a young boy. What we did claim—and stand behind 100 percent—is that the Hillary Clinton camp had conducted an investigation into Obama's Muslim background, and they had concluded he had been raised and educated as a Muslim. In fact, our sources close to the Hillary camp confirmed that the investigators were planning to leak this information to their media allies later this fall—just before the '08 primary campaign. Moreover, our sources also confirmed that the Hillary camp was going to make the issue not so much Obama's Muslim background, but the fact that he had concealed or downplayed it. According to the strategy of the Clinton camp, Obama's alleged concealment and deception was to be the issue—not so much his Muslim heritage. We also reported that the Hillary camp was investigating whether Obama had actually attended a radical Madrassa—and that Clinton's investigators were in the process of trying to find that out.

The Times is trying to obscure the real issue: Hillary Clinton's campaign had been conducting extensive opposition research on her main '08 Democratic rival, and they were zeroing in on his Muslim background. This is the truth. This is exactly what we actually reported. This is what actually happened. We got it first and we got it right. No amount of spinning and mud-slinging from the liberal media  can change this.

Mr. Kirkpatrick and The Times editors should be ashamed of themselves: their piece on Insight is full of factual errors and inaccuracies. Insight does not “pay up to $800” for an article. That is simply false. Insight’s Obama story was not “meant to focus on the thinking of the Clinton campaign.” That is false. It was meant to expose what was actually occurring in the Clinton campaign. Mr. Kirkpatrick’s article cites Professor Ralph Whitehead Jr. as questioning whether “Insight magazine actually exists” and that “It could be performance art.” How can a New York Times reporter who is profiling an Internet publication, has interviewed the editor on several occasions, and has spoken with former colleagues at The Washington Times—all of whom confirm Insight is a real, functioning entity—cite a source who questions the very existence of the topic he is working on? For the record: Insight does exist, I do collect a regular salary and we have a small staff. To insinuate otherwise, is not only false but nutty.

Then, Mr. Kirkpatrick resorts to the classic kind of smearing that The Times reporters have mastered as an art form: he tries to use the history of Insight on the News (the print version) against us. The old Insight magazine folded several years ago—and I never met its former staff. I was brought on board to edit the new online version that would focus on a unique and completely different mission: political intelligence inside the Beltway. Hence, the only connection we have with the old Insight is the use of the name—that’s it. We don’t use any of the former contributors, staff or even its format of traditional weekly news coverage. We are an entirely different kind of publication. I stressed this repeatedly to Mr. Kirkpatrick. Yet throughout his piece he tries to discredit Insight by mentioning articles published years ago by reporters who worked under a different editorial regime. Why else mention that journalist David Brock had written for Insight more than a decade ago other than as an underhanded ploy to create a false link between the old Insight and the new Insight? Should we then judge Mr. Kirkpatrick’s work in light of some of the false stories that his predecessors at The Times have written (like Walter Duranty and Jayson Blair)? This is obviously unfair—and worse, it is dishonest and juvenile journalism.

Furthermore, Mr. Kirkpatrick’s piece is not a balanced evaluation of Insight’s contributions to the news cycle over the course of the last year. He makes little mention of all the stories we have broken months before the same stories were confirmed by the establishment press. And more egregious still, Mr. Kirkpatrick fails to mention the hundreds—nay thousands of individuals—who can attest to my character as an honest and meticulous editor. I was trained as a historian and scholar and have impeccable credentials when it comes to diligence in research and verification of sources (in fact, I am willing to compare my resume to his, any day). I have worked for leading universities and news organizations and have received nothing but praise and promotions. Would this be possible if I were as unreliable and shifty as his article insinuates?

In short, Mr. Kirkpatrick has proven that he is a liar, a propagandist and a smear merchant. His judgment as a journalist is also very weak: why does he spend so much time and energy attacking us— fellow journalists who are committed to exposing the truth—instead of applying the same intense effort to pursuing Hillary’s activities further, as any honest reporter would do in this case? It is precisely Mr. Kirkpatrick’s kind of biased, inaccurate, politically motivated reporting that has led The Times to lose circulation and influence—and why “New Media” publications, such as Insight, are surging forward. The New York Times is going the way of disco. And pernicious articles like Mr. Kirkpatrick’s are the reason why.

- Jeffrey T. Kuhner is the editor of Insight (www.insightmag.com)

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