A hit piece on Vets for Freedom's Back to Iraq trip came out today posted on both Salon.com and the Huff Po. It's two titles are "Embedded Reporters or Republican activists?" and "Obama-attacking, Pro-McCain group gets free trip to Iraq" the first is a reasonable construct, the second is a horseshit lie. I don't hold the writer, Alex Koppelman, responsible for the titles, but he is surely responsible for the innuendo and slurs contained in the piece. Upon reading it this morning I danced a little jig, because I knew the attack was coming and I couldn't believe how weak it was. But since it will get huge play in the fever swamps I soldiered up and began the rebuttal. I contacted the two sources he quoted, Chris Hanson of U of Maryland and Kelly McBribe of Poynter Institute. I will advise once I have spoken with them. I also contacted Alex himself and he was courteous enough to call me. The problem was, he wanted to talk off the record. I know, I laughed myself, a journo who won't go on the record with a knuckledragger like me. He said he had to consult his editor and they determined a live conversation taped so neither of us could be mis-quoted, was far too dangerous. Instead could I email some questions. Heh.
Here are the questions I had for Mr. Koppelman. I will post his answers in full when I receive them.
You ask "But what about sending political activists and GOP operatives to Iraq in the guise of journalists, with the cooperation of the U.S. military and on the taxpayers' dime, so that the activists can come home and proselytize for the Republican presidential candidate's position on the war?"
Do you have any evidence that these folks are less capable than "journalists" of accurately reporting on the conditions on the ground?
Do you have any proof or any record of Pete Hegseth or David Bellavia mis-representing the conditions in Iraq on their previous trips there?
Do you have any evidence of coordination or collusion between the current administration or the McCain campaign regarding this embed trip?
If not, then why do you claim that they are acting essentially as surrogates?
Are you aware that VFF paid their own way from Kuwait to Baghdad on civilian Gryphon Airlines?
What, about the VFF Mission Statement for the Back to Iraq trip,
"It's essential for the American people to know the facts about what is happening in Iraq. Some media, and certain politicians, still fail to assess the situation objectively; so Vets for Freedom is heading Back to Iraq to let the American people and key lawmakers know what has been accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we should proceed in order to attain sustainable security in Iraq."
qualifies as advocacy journalism of the foregone conclusion variety, strident conservative division? They state that some journalists and politicians fail to accurately report, and they are going to take an objective look. They also state that they will report what still needs to be done, how is that a foregone conclusion?
Why does the fact that these correspondents support the winning efforts in Iraq disqualify them from being able to report on the conditions now and how they differ from their previous time spent there in a fair manner?
Does working on a political campaign or with an advocacy group disqualify someone from being able to be a reporter for life, and if so wouldn't that make dozens of reporters for major outlets, who have been activists in previous jobs, as suspect as you try to make these correspondents?
Do you believe that these correspondents will mis-represent or under-report bad conditions in Iraq to benefit the McCain campaign?
Since by any reasonable standard things have improved dramatically in Iraq, Robert Burns of the AP characterized it as the "fragile beginnings of peace", will you characterize positive reports from them as "proselytizing for the Republican presidential candidate's position on the war", or is it actually possible that we have won the war and now must win the peace?
You state, out of context, that David Bellavia introduced John McCain saying "we have our John McCain". Even if he had meant it in the way you portray, how is that different than the tingle going up Chris Matthew's leg or the statements from reporters that it is hard to stay objective as Obama charms them, or the standing ovation he got at the minority journalist's convention?