Kincaid denounced “false” Media Matters item but failed to point out a single falsehood

In response to an August 19 Media Matters for America item about his attempts to have Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff extradited to Afghanistan, Accuracy In Media (AIM) editor Cliff Kincaid used his America's Survival Inc. website to accuse Media Matters of a “false and defamatory” attack. But Kincaid's attack misrepresented the original Media Matters item and failed to point out a single falsehood.

Kincaid has pushed for Isikoff's extradition to Afghanistan to “face justice” over his role in the publication of a May 9 Newsweek article that Kincaid described as “a story giving the terrorists a public relations bonanza, setting off anti-American riots throughout the Arab world, and causing the deaths of 17 people in Afghanistan.” Newsweek later retracted the article's claim that an internal military investigation had uncovered Quran abuse at the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Kincaid suggested that a letter he received from Afghan ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad indicates support for Kincaid's efforts to extradite an American journalist to a foreign nation to stand trial for work he performed legally in the United States. From Kincaid's August 20 response to Media Matters:

The petition campaign, referenced in the Ambassador's letter, is being conducted by mail and not on the Internet. Several hundred petitions have already been provided to the Ambassador and several hundred more have been collected and will be on their way. The statement on the petition is exactly as described in the letters posted on the ASI web site.

You can view one of the petitions herePDF file, with the name of the signer blacked out for privacy reasons. One side features a picture of President Bush and Afghanistan President [Hamid] Karzai above the words “American Support for Extradition.” They are signed by individual supporters of America's Survival at the end of the statement on the other side.

But Jawad made no mention of Kincaid's extradition request nor of Isikoff. Instead, his letter simply contained generic thanks to Kincaid for “the enclosed petitions supporting our President Hamid Karzai and his fight for freedom and justice in Afghanistan.”

In requesting Isikoff's extradition, and in blaming him for causing “the deaths of 17 people,” Kincaid ignored the fact that Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the violence in question was “not at all tied to the article in the magazine.” As Media Matters explained on May 17:

In fact, top U.S. military officials contended that other factors led to the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Myers noted in a May 12 Department of Defense news briefing, according to Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, the violence “was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Quran” but was “more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President [Hamid] Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan.” Myers directly noted Eikenberry's belief that the violence “was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.”

Karzai has also stated that the violence was not sparked by Isikoff's article:

Mr. Karzai said deadly riots in Afghanistan last week were not directly related to a Newsweek magazine article, which has since been retracted, that said a military inquiry would report that a copy of the Koran had been flushed down a toilet at the American prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At least 17 people were killed during the riots.

“Those demonstrations were in reality not related to the Newsweek story,” the Afghan president said. “They were more against the elections in Afghanistan. They were more against the progress in Afghanistan. They were more against the strategic partnership with the United States. We know who did it. We know the guys. We know the people behind those demonstrations.”

While continuing his efforts to gain Isikoff's extradition, Kincaid asserted that Media Matters “accused Kincaid of having fabricated or forged a letter from the Ambassador of Afghanistan.” Media Matters did nothing of the kind; we simply pointed out that the letter as posted on the America's Survival website consisted of separate elements cobbled together from various sources. When we wrote the item, Kincaid had provided no acknowledgment that the document he posted was an electronic collage and certainly no explanation for why he had not simply posted a photographic reproduction of the letter. Nothing in Media Matters' item is contradicted by Kincaid's subsequent claims to have faithfully recreated the letter using several different elements.

Kincaid claimed that he posted a recreation of the letter in question in part to avoid publishing his home address on the America's Survival website:

These letters were posted on the America's Survival web site with Kincaid's home address omitted for privacy and safety and security reasons. Being a prominent journalist and analyst, Kincaid sometimes receives hate mail and does not want his home address to be widely disseminated.

Before the letter from the Ambassador was posted on the America's Survival web site, Kincaid's home address on the letter -- which also includes his home office -- was removed by his web master in order to protect the Kincaid family's privacy.

If this is true, Kincaid should be much more careful. His home address already appears on the America's Survival website for all the world to see.

Kincaid goes on:

The article made it seem as though he had been caught in some kind of scam designed to fool people into supporting his organization, and that he had resorted to posting a fake letter from the Afghanistan Ambassador to make his petition campaign on the Isikoff matter appear authentic. All of the Media Matters charges are false and defamatory.

Kincaid has identified no such “charges” made by Media Matters that are false. Media Matters noted that the letter Kincaid posted on the America's Survival site was an electronic collage, hence our use of quotation marks around the word “letter.” Kincaid has acknowledged as much. There can be nothing “false and defamatory” about describing the letter in a way Kincaid admits is accurate.

Kincaid's contention seems to be that the letter, as originally posted on his site, was “fake but true.” That may have merit, but it is amusing coming from a man who previously denounced a similar defense of memos used by CBS News as "ridiculous."