The good folks at the New York Times often shrug their shoulders and ask, “Who, us?” whenever anyone suggests that they infuse their news section with bias or when they are questioned about the ethical choices their journalists make regarding the subjects they cover. Well, here’s a doozy: Several years ago, Artin Afkhami, while working at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group which lobbies against sanctions on the Islamic Republic, wrote a piece in which he falsely summarized an event and even fabricated a quote, which he attributed to me in order to suggest I took a position that I had never advocated. The event had been videotaped, and I challenged Afkhami to source his quote or retract it, but he did not. Nor could Afkhami source the quote to any previous writing, because I had never advocated pre-emptive war against Iran, as he claimed.
I noted subsequently that the New York Times had hired Afkhami from NIAC even though the paper itself labeled NIAC an advocacy organization. Diane McNulty, executive director, for community affairs and media relations a the New York Times responded, “Artin Afkhami has worked for The Times part time, on a freelance basis, providing translations of articles and speeches and monitoring news reports from Iran. He does not write for The Times. We are reviewing his other affiliations to determine whether any of them pose the possibility or the appearance of a conflict.” Alas, it seems that he now does write for the New York Times, about the country for whom he once lobbied. Artin Afkhami may have matured from his days at NIAC, but he certainly hasn’t retracted and corrected the quote he never was able to support. It seems that after almost a decade, the Grey Lady has learned neither the lessons of Jayson Blair, nor understood why an increasingly broad array of policymakers questions their agenda even on hard, international news.