Richard Lardner wrote an article for the AP (source link WashPo) about a "study" that was done evaluating the problems with getting Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to the Marines:
By RICHARD LARDNER
The Associated Press
Friday, February 15, 2008; 10:53 PM
WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of U.S. Marines have been killed or injured by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps bureaucrats refused an urgent request in 2005 from battlefield commanders for blast-resistant vehicles, an internal military study concludes.
The study, written by a civilian Marine Corps official and obtained by The Associated Press, accuses the service of "gross mismanagement" that delayed deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks for more than two years...
The bottom-line is that Franz Gayl described several issues with communication and management around getting the Marines MRAPs quickly. But was it an official study? Was it an official fact finding mission or was it a paper designed to influence the decision-makers in the Marine Corps to change sourcing methods?
Gayl's opinion paper was not an official study according to the Marines. The USMC Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Colonel David Lapan, responds with an unprecedented letter to the President of the Associated Press to correctly attribute Gayl's comments:
It is a rare occurrence when a letter of this nature must be sent to the president of a news organization, but the gravity of this situation warrants nothing less...
...A story on Friday Feb. 15, by AP journalist Richard Lardner, "Vehicle Delay Blamed for Marines' Deaths," micharacterized the nature of a paper written by a civilian employee of the Marine Corps regarding the procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. The fact is the paper contained the personal views and opinions of the employee and was clearly marked as such. The reporter knew this fact yet opted to bury that vital detail in a the 18th paragraph of his story, after mischaracterizing the paper as a Marine Corps study 10 times prior to referring to the author's disclaimer. Inaccurately implying the work was an official Marine Corps study, despite the facts, ensure the story received a lot of play and forced the Marine Corps to have to respond to numerous questions, from other news organizations, members of Congress and other groups, about the nature of the work and its conclusions.
A subsequent AP article, "Biden, Bond Seek Probe of Vehicle Delay," was posted Feb. 19, and included the following statement: "The Associated Press first reported Friday that hundreds of U.S. Marines have been killed or injured by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps officials refused the request of the commanders." This statement was presented as fact and not attributed to the author of the paper, as representing his personal views. It is an especially egregious statement without the proper attribution.
We are adamant about our obligation to protect the public record. Our efforts in addressing this matter with the writer and his editors have yielded nothing. I ask that you take appropriate action to correct the record and hold AP reporters and editors to the organization's stated high standards.
Note that no one disputes that Marines should have the best equipment possible. Some of you helped pay for Humvee armor (though Soldiers' Angels - THANK YOU ROBIN!) and know that the need for protection was there. That's not what this is about.
The fact appears to be that AP reporter Richard Lardner and his editors have deliberately misquoted an opinion as an official study, only to admit that the story is based on personal opinion 18 paragraphs later. This has multiple implications. We already know that the AP will bend the truth to serve their biases, sensationalize a story, and publish an insurgents photos as unbiased reporting.
Hopefully, this won't be another one of those cases and the AP will portray the situation accurately.
Update: The AP CEO, Tom Curley, responds to Colonel Lapan:
February 22, 2008
Col. D. A. Lapan
Deputy Director of Public Affairs
Department of the Navy
3000 Marine Corps Pentagon
Thank you for your letter regarding the February 15 AP story by Richard Lardner on the procurement of MRAP vehicles.
I have reviewed the story and concluded that it is fair and accurate in its presentation of the facts.
The lead of the story is attributed to an “internal military study,” and the second graf says it was written by a “civilian Marine Corps official.” So the story from the start makes clear it was written by one individual. Lower, the story gives more information about the author – who wrote the study for his command – and notes: “The study’s cover page says the views in the study are his own.”
As soon as we were able to talk publicly about the report, based on the terms under which it was provided to us, the AP contacted the Marines for comment and included that in our story. We also included past Marine Corps’ defense against previous criticism of delays in getting MRAPs to the war zone.
As to the AP story on Monday, you are absolutely correct in pointing out that the 5th graf badly needed attribution. That was an editorial lapse, and we have taken it up with the editor involved.
Finally, I know that
bureau chief, has made clear to you that Mr. Lardner would be eager to interview the Marines for a follow-up if they have further information on the MRAP decisions.