After briefly taking down its links to “dossiers” of conservatives, PBS Frontline has returned them, with a note that argued, “We find that the biographies on the Right Web site are not at all fake or fabricated, and seem to be well-sourced.” That the editors at PBS Frontline are unable to differentiate between assertions of opinion on hard-left blogs and fact-checked news sources suggests an unfortunate lack of judgment and professionalism and an organization undeserving of tax-payer subsidy. Let’s take a look at that. PBS Frontline, for example, links to a Right Web dossier on “Office of Special Plans.”

  • Right Web sources to Robert Dreyfuss, who was a correspondent for Lyndon LaRouche’s magazine, and dedicated his first book to the discredited conspiracy theorist. In hindsight and with the declassification of documents, most of his allegations turned out to be false and, in some cases, fabricated.
  • Right Web sources to Karen Kwiatkowski, who, after writing numerous anonymous articles about The Office of Special Plans (OSP), was called by Congressional investigators to testify on the topic. They discovered she had never been a part of OSP, nor did she have direct knowledge about the subject; she was a fabricator.
  • Right Web sources to Seymour Hersh, who allowed personal animus toward the Bush administration to supplant fact-checking, much to the embarrassment of the New Yorker.
  • Of course,the charge that OSP “provided the White House with inaccurate, skewed intelligence linking Iraq and al-Qaida that was used to justify the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq,” is not accurate. The editors at Right Web did not provide a link to support their statement for good reason: The Inspector General’s report found, “The actual Office of Special Plans had no responsibility and did not perform any of the activities examined in this review.” As for Douglas Feith, the report found he did not act in an “illegal or unauthorized” way.
  • Perhaps PBS Frontline might find a source other than Right Web to support the assertion that Harold Rhode worked in the Office of Special Plans? He retired after many years in the Office of Net Assessment, a different office. Does anyone fact-check at PBS Frontline?
  • Let’s hope that the editors of PBS Frontline never fact-check the editor of Right Web’s claim that he has published in the Washington Post because neither LEXIS-NEXIS nor seem to have any record of any such article.

If PBS Frontline wants, I can continue to deconstruct the Right Web dossiers, which its editors embrace.  Going back to the sources and determining what’s cherry-picked and what is simply made up is fun to do. PBS Frontline has in the past produced excellent reporting but when PBS plays these political games, it does a disservice to its brand and raises legitimate questions about its judgment and bias.

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