Duranty wrote a series of early 1930s dispatches from the Soviet Union, where he was Times Moscow bureau chief, in which he lied about the Ukrainian Holocaust, in which Stalin deliberately starved millions of Kulaks (peasants) to death, through a man-made famine. Instead of reporting the truth, Duranty reported that the peasants were happy and well-fed, and was rewarded for his lies with a Pulitzer Prize.
Jayson Blair (here, here, and here) was an early 2000s black affirmative action hire who alternately plagiarized reporters at other newspapers, and fabricated articles out of whole cloth, all for stories set hundreds and even thousands of miles away, while he sat in New York City cafés.
On Friday, “ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent” Brian Ross “reported” that Aurora shooter James Holmes was a member of the Tea Party. Actually, Holmes is nothing of the sort, but Ross found a “Jim Holmes” from the area on a Tea Party list, and simply assumed that he must be the same guy.
Colorado Tea Party Patriots member Jim Holmes told The Daily Caller in a Friday interview that his day has been “surreal” after falsely being linked to the movie theater massacre in Colorado by an on-air ABC News reporter... Holmes has the unfortunate coincidence of sharing a similar name with James Holmes, the 24-year-old accused of going on a rampage during a midnight showing of the “Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning.
Because of this, ABC News reporter Brian Ross, appearing on “Good Morning America” on Friday, suggested the suspect could be a member of the tea party, citing the fact that “there’s a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site.” But Ross had the wrong guy: The tea partier he was referring to is this 52-year-old former law enforcement officer. ABC News was forced to apologize online.
Holmes told TheDC that ABC News didn’t call him before going to air and he still hasn’t heard from them or received a direct apology. “No, not a thing,” he said. “They could’ve contacted me through the Tea Party Patriots website,” said Holmes, who said he only recently joined the group and started attending lectures.
As Wall emphasizes, there is nothing extreme about Brian Ross:
This is the Mainstream Media we have to deal with.
I’m sure that Brian Ross has gotten some stories right—he’s covered so many that he can’t have screwed up all of them, no?—but the only stories of his that I’m closely familiar with are his two biggest botches. (Full disclosure: I’ve never had any personal dealings or communications with Ross.)
After receiving vile, threatening calls from all over the country, the man—Jim Holmes, not Brian Ross—had to disconnect his telephone.
Where on earth would Ross even get the idea that a Tea Partier would commit such an atrocity, so that Ross would think to search the names of Tea Party members? The Tea Party, for all its shortcomings, is up there with blue-haired old white ladies, as one of the least violent groups in America.
But not to members of the MSM. To them, Tea Partiers are fascist monsters. Thus, it was natural, given the leftwing paranoia, stupidity, and laziness of your typical MSM newsroom that Ross would immediately seek to pin the mass murder on a Tea Party member, and that once he found something that looked promising, he would not bother to confirm or disconfirm it. After all, aren’t practically all mass and serial murderers white guys? (See my VDARE report, “Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill—Two White Men Who Beat the ‘Serial Killer’ Rap.”)
A Repeat Offender
Ross’ biggest botch came 10 years ago, when he acted as the Justice Department/FBI’s tool, in seeking to railroad scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill for the five fall, 2001, anthrax murders.
Anthrax letters sent in fall, 2001, to senators Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), both carried the same return address:
Franklin Park, N.J. 08852
Justice or the FBI fed Ross the hoax line that Hatfill had lived near a “Greendale School” during the latter’s medical school days in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Unfortunately, for Ross, there never was a “Greendale School” in Rhodesia. But we needn’t have any compassion for him, because he did not engage in the most rudimentary follow-up. He was a tool; no more, no less.
A “professional journalist” like Ross would tell you that he was “reporting” what a source had provided him, but if someone uses you to foist lies on the world, he’s not a source. A source is someone who gives a reporter (or a detective) information he reasonably believes to be true.
The individual who used Ross in the Hatfill case would more accurately be called, in addition to a liar, a relationship. Big-name MSM “reporters” base much of their work on their government relationships. The reporters trade favors with these people, and a report may be based on true information, or may merely be a case of the reporter repaying a favor.
By the time that Ross perpetrated the “Greendale” myth, on June 25, 2002, I had been working the Hatfill story for over two months. I knew that the government had not even a smidgen of evidence that Hatfill was the killer, and I knew a lot more than that. I knew that the campaign being waged against Hatfill had been launched by a tenured Marxist activist named Barbara Hatch Rosenberg who was misrepresenting herself as a “State University of New York professor of microbiology”—she was a professor of environmental science at a performing arts college—and an expert on bioweapons, about which she knew little.
What I didn’t know, at that point, was the degree to which the Justice Department had made the show its own, but that was becoming more clear with each passing leak.
A sage observer recently noted, “If there is a Greendale School, it is insignificant. But if there is no Greendale School, it is very significant.”
What the observer meant, was that the existence of a Greendale School in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe would hardly be incriminating. There are Greendales and Greendale Schools scattered about the English-speaking world. There are sixteen Greendales in the U.S. alone. Canada has active Greendale schools in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia (and a defunct one in Saskatchewan); Worcester, MA has one, as does Philadelphia; there are Greendale schools in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland, and even as far off as Christchurch, New Zealand….
The notion that the existence of a Greendale School during the time of Steven Hatfill’s stay in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, would “prove” that he was the anthrax terrorist, would only impress someone who either had convinced himself that Hatfill was guilty, or who wanted him to be guilty so badly that he was indifferent or hostile to the truth. The Greendale Myth has been the story not of Steven J. Hatfill, but of reporters who were scientifically illiterate, lazy, and politically compromised.
After Brian Ross started the myth on its way, he was cited by hundreds of other reporters, none of whom bothered to check out the story.
How did I manage to scoop the MSM that there was no Greendale School? Easy; I just did the work that Brian Ross & Co. were paid for, but couldn’t be bothered doing. I contacted people at a message board of Zimbabwean expats, and I called the Education Ministry in the capital city of Harare, where an official assured me (as had the expats) that there wasn’t and never had been a “Greendale School.”
Ross repeated his hoax at least twice, on August 10 and 12, respectively.
The function of the Greendale School Hoax within the campaign to railroad Hatfill was in poisoning the jury pool. Neither the media nor the government ever presented a single piece of incriminating evidence against Hatfill, yet they sought to depict him as a serial killer. The lack of any case against Hatfill required that his persecutors bring about an atmosphere so hostile, suspicious, and downright hysterical towards Hatfill, that jurors would be immunized against the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof.
On October 5, 2002, at an Accuracy in Media conference where I was invited to give a speech on the Hatfill case, I met surprise invitee, Dr. Steven Hatfill, and his friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson.
The three of us had lunch together before our panel met. (Hatfill and Clawson also gave speeches.)
Among other things, Clawson complained to me about Ross’ perpetration of the Greendale School Hoax. Clawson was a longtime journalist who had known Ross for many years. Clawson said that after he’d complained to Ross that there was no “Greendale School,” Ross had begun writing the name of the non-existent school in lower-case letters in the Web versions of his phony reports. (Of course, the change didn’t register with the millions of TV listeners that comprised Ross’ primary audience, and would even have escaped notice by many readers.)
I checked out Clawson’s claim, and sure enough, Ross had switched to lower-case. The switch gave Ross plausible deniability—rather than speaking of a school with that name, he could say that he was merely speaking of a school in the area.
For perpetrating a hoax, Brian Ross was paid thousands of dollars by ABC News; for debunking his hoax, I was paid nothing. I guess that made him a “professional,” and me a mere “amateur.” (I had, however, picked up a few commissions for reports for Middle American News and Insight on the News (here and here).
Of course, Walter Duranty, Jayson Blair, Mary Mapes and the gang at the New Orleans Times-Picayune were also professional journalists, and the gang at the Times-Pic was rewarded with not one, but two Pulitzer Prizes, not in spite of, but because of its lies. So, what do I know?
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.