I’ve heard back from the “Readers’ Representative” regarding the timing of Hagee’s briefing of Murtha.
In May, the L.A. Times reported that John Murtha had been fully briefed by Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee before Murtha made controversial public statements about the alleged massacre:
Hagee last week briefed key congressional leaders on the upcoming report. One of those, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a retired Marine colonel, said later that Marines “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
We learned recently that Hagee says this isn’t true. As this Reuters story explained:
The head of the U.S. Marine Corps briefed Rep. John Murtha on the Haditha case after the vocal war critic publicly said Marines had killed innocent civilians in that Iraqi city, the Corps said on Thursday.
So the L.A. Times says that Hagee briefed Murtha, and then Murtha made his public statements about Haditha. Now, General Hagee’s spokesman says the order of events was reversed: first Murtha made his public statements, and then Hagee briefed Murtha.
Which happened first is important. It goes to the significant issue of whether Murtha shot off his mouth in public about Haditha before he was properly briefed.
So, four days ago, I wrote an e-mail to the L.A. Times Readers’ Representative to get to the bottom of this perplexing question. I gave her a link to the Reuters story, in which Hagee’s spokeman directly contradicts the version set forth by the L.A. Times in May.
I asked her several questions:
1) Will you be issuing a correction to the May 26 article?
2) Did anyone ever contact Gen. Hagee to ask him whether he had indeed briefed Murtha before Murtha spoke publicly about Haditha?
3) What was your basis for saying that the paper had reported this information accurately, when it now appears that it hadn’t?
I wondered: what would her response be? After all, this is a significant inquiry, backed by solid evidence. What is the L.A. Times‘s explanation?
Are they claiming that the Reuters report is somehow consistent with the statement in their paper? Do they believe that Hagee’s spokesman is lying or mistaken? Do they contend that Reuters misquoted Hagee’s spokesman? Do they allege that the L.A. Times May 26 story is based upon confidential sources that they can’t reveal?
Or is something else going on?
I was confident I’d get some kind of answer. After all, if you are the “Readers’ Representative” of a major newspaper, and someone supplies you direct evidence that one of your news reports was inaccurate, it’s explaining time.
What would the explanation be? I had no idea.
But last night, I got my answer.
But I warn you: the level of detail just may surprise you.
So brew a pot of coffee. Draw up your most comfortable chair. Put on a movie for the kids. And set aside some time to pore through the extensive response I received from the Readers’ Representative.
Yes, some could say that the “Readers’ Representative” went too far in explaining the paper’s position — but at least she’s looking out for the readers. And when readers have valid concerns about the accuracy of Times articles, based on solid evidence — why, she will be there for you.
Due to bandwidth limitations, I have placed her response in the extended entry.
Here it is. Click on “more” when you have the time:
That May 26 L.A. Times report is accurate.
I swear I am not making that up.