The former New York ranted, got a response, and has shared it with friends for public consumption:
You will be interested in correspondence I had with the Executive Editor of The Washington Post concerning the statements of a Washington Post reporter, Tom Ricks.
All the best.
Sent August 17, 2006 By E-Mail
Mr. Leonard Downie, Jr.
The Washington Post
1150 15 Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20071
Dear Mr. Downie:
On the August 6th “Reliable Sources” program on CNN, Howard Kurtz’s guest was Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, who stated, “One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they’re being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.”
Kurtz responded, “Hold on, you’re suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of its fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?”
Ricks’ reply: “Yes, that’s what military analysts have told me.”
I was shocked when I read Ricks’ comments.
Still, I thought to myself, anything is possible in a war. There are crazy people on both sides of every war, but, Dear God, I hope this never happened. A few days later, in a note to the Washington Post Ombudsman, Ricks offered an explanation. He wrote: “What I said was accurate: that in an off-the-record conversation with military analysts, a couple had suggested that the Israeli strategy involved leaving Hezbollah ‘rocket pockets’ in place so as to shape public perceptions and give their forces more freedom of maneuver in Lebanon….But I’ve since heard from some smart, well-informed people that while such a strategy might be logical, that the Israeli public just wouldn’t stand for it. And they were pretty dismayed that I had passed on the thought.”
Ricks also wrote, “My comments were based on a long conversation I had with a senior Israeli official a couple of years ago…”
I read the New York City newspapers every day. It happens that when the apology appeared, I was having my annual medical tests and did not see it. When back in my office, I recalled the incident and looked for the news story, but could not locate it. There is, however, one source you can rely on when it comes to keeping track of news stories on the Middle East – CAMERA — Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. CAMERA did indeed have both of Ricks’ statements, which are enclosed.
I believe Ricks’ statements are comparable to the age-old blood libel used by anti-Semites to incite pogroms in Europe. That blood libel, used to show the callousness of Jews and their need for blood, was to the effect that Jews, in preparing for the Passover holiday and Seder dinner, baked matzos with the blood of Christian children whom they are charged with killing for that purpose. The implication of Ricks’ anecdote is that Jews would even kill their own children, not to make Matzos, but to receive sympathy, “because as long as they’re being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.” What Ricks was really saying is that the rockets that fell on Israel were the result of Israel’s own design.
CAMERA points out that on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Mr. Ricks described his sources as “some U.S. military analysts,” while in his note to the Washington Post, he describes his source as “a senior Israeli official.
Many people watch “Reliable Sources,” and they will recall with horror the thought that the Israeli government could be so cruel and contemptible as to risk the lives of its own civilians for public relations purposes. The great majority will not have seen Ricks’ attempt at an explanation, and many who see it will not understand its relevance. Is Ricks essentially different than Jayson Blair of The New York Times, who was fired for writing false stories — journalistic fraud? Shouldn’t The Washington Post sanction Ricks? Is he immune because he once won a Pulitzer Prize? So did Janet Cooke. The Prize is an even greater reason to hold him responsible. He knew or should have known that the tale he was retelling was at best unsupported and, more likely, untrue and told to him with malicious intent. The fact that Ricks spoke in another medium than The Post should not excuse him from his responsibility to his newspaper to be truthful and accurate in his public statements.
The transcript from Howard Kurtz’s show follows as it appeared on CAMERA’s website.
All the best.
Edward I. Koch
Leonard Downie’s Reply of August 17, 2006:
I have made clear to Tom Ricks that he should not have made those statements. Len Downie