On the May 26 edition of "The Point," Sinclair Broadcast Group commentator Mark Hyman echoed the false claim that The New York Times' report of the looting of explosives from the Al Qaqaa weapons facility in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion had been "discredited." In fact, the evidence that has emerged since the publication of the Times' original report strongly supports the Times' suggestion that Al Qaqaa was looted after U.S. troops initially passed through the site. Hyman also characterized the Times' decision to attach a disclaimer that appears at the bottom of columns of its recently departed public editor Daniel Okrent as "an action meant to discredit his work." In fact, similar disclaimers accompany the ombudsman columns of numerous media outlets.
In an effort to impugn the Times' credibility, Hyman offered the paper's October 25, 2004, article on alleged looting of the Al Qaqaa weapons facility, which he described as "the now-discredited Iraqi ammunition dump story." In fact, while conservatives repeatedly tried to debunk the Al Qaqaa story, claiming that Iraqi troops removed the explosives before the invasion, the Times has stood by its report, and strong evidence exists that the weapons cache was in fact looted after the invasion. This evidence includes eyewitness accounts from American soldiers [Los Angeles Times, 11/4/04] and a video of the facility recorded by a Minnesota television crew indicating that explosives were present at Al Qaqaa two weeks after U.S. troops first arrived at the site.
Since the Times' initial Al Qaqaa report, Media Matters for America has documented numerous failed attempts by conservatives to debunk it (here, here, and here). In addition, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III and conservative pundit Michelle Malkin have both recently referred to reports about Al Qaqaa as false and inconsequential.
Later in his commentary, Hyman praised the work of Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent, who recently completed an 18-month term as the newspaper's first public editor. "Okrent's been so effective that ... last year the paper began running a disclaimer of his critiques -- an action meant to discredit his work," Hyman said, referring to the disclaimer that accompanied Okrent's biweekly column. It stated: "The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own."
In fact, though the disclaimer did not appear alongside Okrent's column until February 22, 2004, more than two months after Okrent started writing the column, such disclaimers are common. The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Sacramento Bee, The Palm Beach Post, and National Public Radio attach similar notices to the writings of their ombudsmen.
Media Matters for America leads SinclairAction.com, a coalition of groups and individuals protesting Sinclair's continued misuse of public airwaves to broadcast one-sided, politically charged programming without a counterpoint.