Why the Newsweek Mess Really Matters

The White House has joined the coordinated, politicized attack on Newsweek, all but guaranteeing another few days of Rathergate-style coverage of our “Blame America First” liberal media.

Just out from Reuters

“It’s puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. …

McClellan complained that the story was “based on a single anonymous source who could not personally substantiate the allegation that was made.”

“The report has had serious consequences,” he said. “People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged.”

This is factually incorrect. Newsweek and its source stand by their stories regarding the use of the Quran during interrogations. The source “clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur’an, including a toilet incident,” Newsweek says. Indeed, various other reports in the media and by NGOs suggest that U.S. interrogators have desecrated the Quran on multiple occassions. The “error” in the Newsweek story is not in whether the desecration happened but in whether or not details about it are included in a new SouthCom report on Guantanamo.


Beginning with Abu Ghraib, and continuing for more than a year, accurate accounts of objectionable U.S. interrogation techniques (like the one in Newsweek) have pushed global anti-American sentiment to historic highs. The Bush administration initiated investigations and prosecutions that, while deeply flawed, at least gave the impression that Washington was concerned about the allegations.

The White House comments on Newsweek represent a significant shift from this approach. Now, instead of at least feigning responsibility, they are attacking Newsweek. The media may prefer RatherGate Part II, but this is the real story.