Sunday, July 20, 2008

Raddatz, ABC News targets of bogus claim

This past Friday I posted a bogus claim that ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz and the network suppressed almost all the information Raddatz gathered in April in Iraq from 60 U. S. soldiers concerning their presidential candidate preferences. (Raddatz was there covering a trip by Vice President Dick Cheney)

In an April 7 ABC News story Raddatz reported on interviews by my count with 4 soldiers who favored Sen. Obama, 1 "leaning" toward Sen. Clinton, a number who favored no candidate, but talked about their concerns including multiple deployments, the economy,etc., and a few who said they weren't following the campaign closely. The story’s here.

Subsequently a bogus claim began circulating on the Net. The claim is Raddatz and ABC suppressed the news that 54 soldiers she interviewed all expressed a preference for Sen. McCain. There's zero evidence to support the claim, and a great deal of evidence that leaves no doubt the McCain-54 claim is bogus.

I’d like to tell you how I came to post the bogus claim and how – with help first from commenter Tarheel Hawkeye, then from others of you commenting on- and offline, another blogger and Martha Raddatz herself – I learned the claim is bogus.

Many of you know Mike Williams has aggregated here outstanding WOT reporting we rarely get from MSM. Mike’s also provided his own superb military analyses.

Mike’s work has always been so reliable that when he passed on the McCain-54 claim, I didn’t do the fact-checking I should have done in fairness to him, you, Raddatz and ABC.

Within a few minutes of my posting Friday on McCain-54, Tarheel Hawkeye let me know it might be an urban legend or worse. (See his comment on the thread here. His comment links to a site he directed me to.)

At the site I read that the sole “starter” for McCain-54 – an email supposedly from a retired USAF Maj. Gen. who’d learned about the supposed 54 pro-McCain soldiers Raddatz had interviewed from his military-serving niece in Iraq who “witnessed” the interviews – was disowned by the general said to be the email's author.

I began to question what I’d posted, but I felt I didn’t know enough yet to say McCain-54 was bogus. I added a Readers Alert to the head of the post letting people know of Tarheel Hawkeye's comment.

Friday evening I emailed Mike to let him know what was happening. I told him that Saturday morning I was going to put aside the question of whether Raddatz-ABC suppressed news of interviews with 54 pro-McCain soldiers, and instead post on what I see as a pro-Obama tilt in Raddatz's report.

Saturday morning while working on that post, I received the following comment on the thread here:


I respect your love of history...but the email you have up slamming me is pure fantasy.

[USAF Maj. Gen.] Buckman denies he authored it and would like it taken down. I have spoken directly to him and he has emailed me as well.

I know it is easy to mistrust the media. But don't throw us all under the bus.

I have been to Iraq 17 times and have covered the military for decades. I respect the military enormously---and I know that I have great respect from those who know me, as well.

I wrote a book, published last year called "The Long Road Home" that profiled the brave soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division and the families who support them. The book was praised as one of the few about the Iraq war that was "non political". The "praise" on the back of the book comes from General David Petraeus among others.

For more about this email I suggest you check out this blog:

I would also ask that if you have forwarded the email, you let people know it was false. And if you would like to contact me directly, please don't hesitate.


Martha Raddatz
The comment seemed genuine, but you can’t always be sure.

So I called ABC News and explained the situation. They helped me get in touch with Raddatz whom I emailed:
I wish to confirm the email below was sent by you. I'll post the email once I've confirmed it's from you.

I'm trying to reach MG Buckman, but that may take a few days.

I will work to give JinC readers the full, true story concerning your report. When I have sufficient facts in hand, I'll correct and apologize, if necessary.

In the meantime, I'm letting readers know of the legend concerns.
Raddatz emailed back:
It was indeed sent by me. If you could go to the post I sent you, you will see that MG Buckman is tired of being called (he is 75)__I could send you the email he sent to me if that will convince you (but please don't publish his email address)
I replied
Dear Ms. Raddatz:

Thank you for a prompt and helpful response.

I would like the email MG Buckman sent you; not because I doubt what you say but to allow me to speak to JinC readers with greater authority.

I will certainly respect the confidentiality of his email address.

It's always good to correct a wrong and it looks like I may be on the verge of having another chance to do so.


In reply, Raddatz sent a copy of Buchman’s email:
Martha-the referenced e-mail about the reaction of our men and women in Iraq was not authored by me. I would not send or forward an e-mail that I knew to be bogus or untrue and would appreciate it not being associated with me.
You can read at Let There Be Truth the experience of a blogger who directly contacted Buckman and, like Raddatz, received an unequivocal denial of authorship from Buckman.

Searching the Net I've found plenty of places that are passing on the bogus McCain-54 story. They all rely solely on the debunked Buckman email. I could find not one instance of a U. S. military source who has stepped forward to confirm McCain-54.

Like the Duke Hoax, McCain-54 is improbable on its face. The bogus email claims Raddatz:
"asked 60 GI’s who they planned to vote for in November. 54 said John McCain, 4 for Obama, and 2 for Hillary."
But what are the chances that in April in Iraq the following would all happen: Of 60 soldiers interviewed, none would say they were undecided; none would express a preference for Rep. Ron Paul; just 2 would express a preference for Sen. Clinton and 4 a preference for Sen. Obama, while 54 of the 60 would express a preference for Sen. McCain?

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said there was no credible evidence to support the charges in the Duke Hoax. The same is true for McCain-54.

I would have realized that if I’d done some fact-checking before posting.

I apologize for not doing so. I’ll work to do better in the future.

While I believe the Raddatz-ABC story has a definite pro-Obama tilt – something I let Raddatz know during our email exchanges – I no longer plan to post concerning it.

That’s because what I most needed to do was explain and correct my error which I began doing yesterday with the update of Our "unbiased" MSM in action (Update - contains error) and have sought to do here.

If I posted at this time something about “on the other hand, what Martha Raddatz and ABC did in terms of Obama …,” it would muddy the clear explanation and unequivocal apology I want to provide.

I’d wind up sounding like the boy who said: “Ma’am, I’m so sorry I stole your cookies that weren’t very good.”

I’m copying this to Raddatz today.

Tomorrow I’ll send an apology note to her and ABC News which I’ll post here.

From past experience I know I can rely on the understanding and decency of almost all of you.

For that, you have my thanks.



Anonymous said...

John: You are a true gentleman and I have the highest respect for you.
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

John -

Ditto to Tarheel Hawkeye. Your upfront admission of error is far more that can be expected of the MSM.

Jack in Silver Spring

Anonymous said...

Ditto everything Tarheel Hawkeye and Jack say.

Now can you do anything about Obama and Brodhead?

Ted in Iowa

Anonymous said...

John followed the facts. No surprise. That's what he always does.

I respect John, but what he does isn't so hard even though most "professional journalists" don't do it.

Anonymous said...

This is the reason why I enjoy reading JinC. There is the willingness (obligation) to make certain that every posting is correct and that if there is something incorrect to admit the error and to make amends. The amends are made openly (not hidden as they are in the MSM - if the mistakes are even acknowledged[rarely]).

Anonymous said...

This is precisely why I visit here each day. I know that what I read is honest and up front. Tarheel and Jack said it best. Steve in New Mexico

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments above.

John has an integrity that's very rare.

A Duke Mom

Anonymous said...


What are the chances any of the MSM biggies will start correcting their errors as you have?

I'm not holding my breath until they do.

My hat's off to you.

Anonymous said...

So good of you to apologize, however the damage is done. Thanks for pretending to be a journalist.