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Friday, September 14, 2007
Alexis Debat vs. Amir Taheri
Topic: NewsBusters

A Sept. 14 NewsBusters post by Warner Todd Huston tries to paint the Alexis Debat faked-interview scandal as a "liberal media" problem because he served as "the main source for some of the AP's and ABC's stories." But Huston downplays the fact that conservatives got hoodwinked by him as well.

For instance, the conservative Counterterrorism Blog loved the heck out of Debat:

One of the premier experts in Washington on Pakistan, Alexis Debat of the Nixon Center and ABC News, traveled again to Pakistan last month and gave a briefing yesterday to invitees. Alexis is a daily CTB reader, and we've traded valuable background information and timely intelligence. He met there with numerous government officials and non-governmental personnel, including those in league with the terrorists. His findings and conclusions are extremely troubling, not only for the future of Pakistan but also for the future of a democracy in Afghanistan.

Further, a Sept. 2 WorldNetDaily article cited Debat as the source of a claim that the Pentagon has rejected a strategy of "pinprick strikes" against Iran's nuclear facilities and plan on "taking out the entire Iranian military." A Sept. 2 NewsMax article similarly repeated Debat's claim.

Huston went on to add:

So, what the heck is going on with editors these days? It seems they are all out to lunch while liars like Jason Blair, Jack Kelly, Michael Finkel, and Stephen Glass -- the list goes on and on -- just make things up out of their rear ends and publish their lies with little notice from those who are supposed to be the media's fact-checkers.

But NewsBusters itself has its own favorite fabulist, whom it has cited long after he was discredited.

As we've detailed, a May 2006 post by Noel Sheppard touted a claim by Amir Taheri about "a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims." Sheppard added: "The question is: will America’s media report this? ... [W]here is the media outrage concerning this extremely heinous move by the current extremists in Iran?" The story was quickly retracted; the only alert NewsBusters gave to its readers about it was quietly appending a note about the retraction to Sheppard's post five days later but not otherwise publicizing it.

(In a delicious bit of irony, two months earlier, Joshua Sharf had included Taheri in a list of "real Middle East expert[s]" the Washington Post should be consulting.)

Amazingly, Taheri's lack of credibility has not kept conservatives -- and NewsBusters -- from citing him as a credible source: An Aug. 8 post by Tom Blumer touted an column by Taheri. Neither Blumer nor mentioned Taheri's previous fact-free debacle.

Also, Huston's mention of "Jack Kelly" is presumably referring to Jack Kelley, a USA Today reporter busted for fabricating parts of several articles. Contrary to Huston's suggestion, Kelley's work was conservative-friendly; as we've noted, WorldNetDaily printed an article by him and featured his writing about the Middle East, praising him as one of only a "few correspondents with background in the area who jetted in for a few weeks and left before they became tainted with the political correctness required of the resident media set."

Before Huston hurls any more smears at the media for taking the word of non-credible people, NewsBusters might want to clear its own closet of fabulists.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:11 PM EDT

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