Facts Are ‘Fair Game’ for WPost’s Axe-Grinding Editorialists

A Washington Post editorial (12/3/10) on the film Fair Game complains that “the film’s reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored.” Talk about lack of self-awareness.

The film dramatizes the story of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s intelligence manipulation, and his spouse Valerie Plame Wilson, who was outed by the administration as a covert CIA officer in retaliation for her husband’s criticism. The Post editorialists have been grinding their axes on the Wilsons’ case for a long time now, and the film version gives them an opportunity to do so anew.

FAIR’s Peter Hart documented in Extra! (5-6/06) how Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt cherry-picked evidence to turn reality upside-down, making the Bush administration the victim of Joseph Wilson’s intelligence manipulation. I wrote another piece (Extra!, 9-10/06) on the Post editorial page’s efforts to dismiss the campaign to destroy Valerie Wilson’s career as nothing but “gossip.” (The Post‘s case rested on the idea that Richard Armitage, who first leaked Plame Wilson’s name, was an official of unquestionable integrity–this is a guy who once served as a character witness for a Vietnamese mobster.)

Fair Game is a devastating portrayal of an establishment media used as a weapon against dissidents–no wonder the Post didn’t enjoy watching it.

Update: Eli Stephens of Left I on the News writes in comments:

It’s interesting what passes for proof at the Post. The editorial asserts categorically: “The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false. In reality, as the Post‘s Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby reported, Ms. Plame did not work directly on the program, and it was not shut down because of her identification.”

But the article by Pincus and Leiby says no such thing. Here: “It’s true that Valerie Plame Wilson was working with one of the CIA’s teams trying to gather intelligence on Iraq WMD operations, but she evidently did not play the central role that the film puts her in. She was not directly part of the scientist program, according to agency officials.”

And, as to whether the program was shut down, Pincus and Leiby offer this “definitive” evidence: “Although the film suggests that the blowing of Valerie’s cover led directly to the shutdown of the Iraqi scientist exfiltration, an intelligence insider told us: “Something like this, if it was going on, wouldn’t have been canceled for this reason.””

So, since Plame continues to maintain her responsibility to not talk about her role, we are to rely on unnamed “agency officials” using couched language “not ‘directly part’ of the scientist program” to conclude in no uncertain terms that this is “simply false,” and the opinion of one “insider” (not even an “agency official”) who offers his or her opinion on what “would or wouldn’t” have happened. “Simply false” my eye.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.