The day after George W. Bush nominated John Bolton as the new American envoy to the United Nations, the headline in the New York Times (3/8/05) was “Bush Nominates Weapons Expert as Envoy to U.N.” But calling him an “expert” might need a little explanation–and the Times should know this as well as anyone.
In September 2003, Bolton was set to testify before Congress about various weapons threats around the world. The Times‘ Judith Miller wrote a story in advance (9/16/03), noting that Bolton was worried about Syria’s chemical weapons systems, and claiming that Bolton’s take was backed up by the CIA. But that’s not true: According to the Times’ own reporting from a few months earlier (7/18/03), “the CIA and other agencies raised strong objections” to Bolton’s planned testimony, believing he was exaggerating the Syrian threat.
In 2002, moreover, the Times (5/14/02) reported that Bolton made unsubstantiated claims about a bioweapons program in Cuba. But the paper’s coverage of Bolton when he was picked for the U.N. post ignored this history, focusing instead on his “blunt-spoken” anti-U.N. comments over the years. Bolton’s problem isn’t that he’s too honest, it’s that he’s got a record of inaccuracy and exaggeration—and it’s too bad the New York Timescouldn’t be more blunt-spoken about it.