U.S. Press Cites Pro-Coup Paper’s Pro-Coup Poll

Just Foreign Policy national Coordinator Robert Naiman has a follow-up (7/15/09) on his July 13 catch of major U.S. new outlets relying solely on Honduras’ La Prensa, “a pro-coup newspaper, with a history of publishing inaccurate information,” to falsely “indicate that a plurality of Hondurans support the military coup against democratically elected President Zelaya.”

Naiman looks at the first question in the poll cited by the paper–“Rough translation: Do you consider that the actions that Mel Zelaya took with respect to the fourth ballot justified his removal from the office of President of the Republic?”–responded to affirmatively by 41 percent, negatively by 28 percent and “Don’t know/No answer” by 31 percent. And at the results of the second query–“Rough translation: How much do you agree with the action that was taken last Sunday that removed President Zelaya from the country?”–being “Support 41 percent, Oppose 46 percent, Don’t know/No Answer 13 percent.”

To Naiman, “the difference between the two questions seems fairly clear”:

The first is a hypothetical: Do you think that President Zelaya’s actions with respect to the referendum justified his removal from office? The second describes the events that actually took place: Do you agree with the action that removed President Zelaya from the country?

And the difference between the responses also seems fairly clear. 18 percent of the sample were “Don’t know/No answer” on the hypothetical but opposed to the actions that actually took place.

Apparently, La Prensa only reported the first result….

And then, it appears, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post and Reuters reported what was in La Prensa without doing any independent checking; whereas the Voice Of America, the New York Times and AP reported the poll result directly, without relying solely on La Prensa–thus strongly suggesting, to say the least, that independent checking was quite feasible.

Furthermore, Naiman notes, “the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor compounded the error by using the word ‘coup’ in their reports, which clearly refers to the actions that actually took place, to which 46 percent were opposed, not 28 percent.” Which means, he explains, that “with the benefit of hindsight–having access to both questions and the responses–there is still no defense of the original CSM and WSJ reports as accurate.”

Listen to the FAIR radio program CounterSpin: “Greg Grandin on Honduras Coup”(7/3/09).