Pexton does offer some criticisms of Rubin, but starts his post by justifying her judgement and ends it by blaming liberal blogs who wrote about her rush to judgement for e-mail threats to Rubin. From the top, though, Pexton struck a sympathetic chord for Rubin:
When I received my Post e-mail alert about the bombing in Norway, my first thought was that it was al-Qaeda. [...]
So what explains the vociferous and voluminous amounts of e-mail I received last week denouncing Post opinion blogger Jennifer Rubin for making similar points online immediately after the bombing?
Just to clarify: Rubin did not blog immediately after the attacks. Her post went up just after 5 p.m. ET when the bombings occurred at about 9:30 a.m. ET and news broke about the youth camp attacks at about 12:30 p.m. ET. But there are more pressing problems with Pexton’s comparison: Because some people may have initially thought Islamic extremists attacked Norway does not justify a website of a major American newspaper reporting it that way. In today’s minute-by-minute news cycle, some speculation can be expected, but the level of certitude that Rubin and her so-called experts brought to her post went beyond just speculation.
Which brings up another issue: In what Pexton call’s Rubin’s “mea culpa post” at 8 p.m. on Saturday, she hardly issues a mea culpa at all, instead merely asserting that “[e]arly suspicion that the attacks might have been linked to a jihadist bombing plot in Oslo last year or the recent Norwegian prosecution of an Iraqi terrorist did not bear up.” Rather than take responsibility, Rubin took the opportunity as “a good reminder to all of us including myself that early reports are often wrong,” and then went on to draw the same conclusion in her original post (don’t cut defense spending) despite the utter debunking of her original premise.
In her “mea culpa post,” Rubin cherry picked her own reporting, making it seem as if she was skeptical that the Norway attack was the work of Islamic terrorists. “Right Turn quoted Thomas Joscelyn of the Weekly Standard for the proposition that we ‘[didn]’t know [emphasis added]‘ at the time if al-Qaeda was responsible,” she wrote. Yet in her original post, Rubin actually quoted Joscelyn saying we don’t know if al Qaeda was “directly responsible” and that “in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra.”
Being over-credulous with questionable sources has long plagued neoconservative writers (see Ahmed Chalabi), so that comes as little surprise. But Pexton doesn’t see fit to apply this critique to Rubin, who regularly quotes dyed-in-the-wool neoconservative ideologues on foreign policy and national security matters. (Despite his lack of credentials, Pexton too considers Joscelyn a “terrorism expert.”)
Instead, Pexton ends his column by slapping the wrists of liberal bloggers who called out Rubin’s rush to judgement for inciting a string of e-mails he called “ugly, obscene, vile and, worst, containing threats of physical harm.” Hateful e-mails and certainly threats of violence are inexcusable, but they should not dull questions about shoddy reporting through poorly-informed sources at one of the nation’s top newspapers.