Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times: Our Mistake in Repeating the Imminent Threat Canard Is “Not Correctable”

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 5:07 pm

Regular readers will recall that I recently wrote the L.A. Times to complain about an editorial which made the following false statement:

[C]ontrary to what Bush said in a previous State of the Union speech, we now know the threat posed by Hussein was not imminent.

In a letter to the “Readers’ Representative,” I noted that Bush had in fact argued in his 2003 State of the Union address that the threat posed by Iraq was not imminent:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

The “Readers’ Representative” now writes me to tell me that there will be no correction — because the mistake is “not correctable”:

Re your note on the Feb. 3 editorial: Though editors do take the complaint seriously, it is not correctable. As editors put it, there are few articles or editorials that couldn’t have found a better or perfect word to express a point, and this may be such a case. But the editorial did not quote the president.

You clearly disagree with their interpretation of what was expressed in the 2003 State of the Union speech, so perhaps your point could be made in a letter to the editor. Those editors won’t print letters that claim factual errors but they do consider airing viewpoints that differ with what’s printed on those pages.

Jamie Gold
Readers’ Representative

As I read this, the position of the editors is that, as long as you don’t directly quote someone, you can claim that they said the exact opposite of what they actually said, and no correction is necessary. Just write it off to bad wording, the impossibility of issuing a correction, or a different interpretation . . . take your pick of these various inconsistent and unconvincing excuses. The bottom line is that they’re deliberately choosing to let this particular misrepresentation stand.

And they wonder why people don’t trust them.

P.S. I had better luck with my complaint about the paper’s slander of James Dobson.

10 Responses to “L.A. Times: Our Mistake in Repeating the Imminent Threat Canard Is “Not Correctable””

  1. “We will not be corrected”, sniffed the High Potentate.

    Boman (104a85)

  2. So the L.A. Times will gladly run letters that contain factual errors, they just won’t run letters that expose them. Lovely.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  3. PATTERICO — LA Times says it’s ed-page error is
    “Not Correctable”: As I read this [response from the “Reader’s Rep”], the position of the editors is that, as long as you don’t directly quote someone, you can claim…

    PRESTOPUNDIT (84db7a)

  4. The response is blatantly dishonest; Orwellian double speak that they should be ashamed of. Instead it shows the distain they have for their readers.

    kent (c79b49)

  5. Some dogs just can’t be trained.

    ras (b76930)

  6. Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler addressed the same issue back on 1/25/04 and determined, “Whether the word ‘imminent’ was used seems like a quibble.”

    So there you have it. If they spell your name wrong, they’ll gladly correct the “factual error” and pat themselves on the back for their honesty in doing so. If they change the gist of the President’s argument from we must act before a threat is imminent, to the threat is imminent, and then beat that straw man to death, they’ll claim it is either quibbling or “it is not correctable” if you point out the error.

    Bruce Rheinstein (c19edc)

  7. Why do I suspect that, should you submit that letter, the editorial board will justify not publishing it on the grounds that objecting to the writer directly misinterpreting the President’s comment is a claim of factual error?

    Matthew (c5c332)

  8. Bruce, I don’t really think it’s fair to equate the context of one paragraph of Bush’s speech with the rest of the Bush administration’s obvious, multi-faceted attempts to construct the “imminent threat” of Iraq in the public sphere.

    But maybe that’s just me…

    Tom (4a3c50)

  9. The context of Bush’s State of the Union Address was the issue addressed in the editorial. Moreover, it was in that speech that he set out his reason for going to war despite the threat not being imminent — the very reason he was accused of waging an “illegal war.”

    Moreover, it was clear at the time we were going to war over a potential, not imminent, threat. There were no warships steaming to Pearl Harbor. The Iraqi Army was not massed accross the border for an invasion. There was no serious assertion that Saddam had active plans, rather than potential, to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. targets.

    The claim the administration sold the war on the basis of an imminent threat is a lie — a damnable falsehood — that ignores both what the President said, and the grounds his detractors used to declare the war illegal.

    Bruce Rheinstein (d0a1e0)

  10. Did you write the letter?

    [Yes. I say so in the post. — Patterico]

    TCO (f4e72d)

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