The Corner

Vanity Fair Fails its Ethical Test

On CNN yesterday morning, I challenged Vanity Fair to post the full transcript of their interviews.  If they had not cherry-picked quotes, they’d have nothing too hide.  Last night Anderson Cooper passed along the challenge to Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose.  All he managed was to stutter out a non-answer, which is pretty much a confession of malfeasance (for the record, I never disputed my particular quote.  I stand by what I say, and what I have said elsewhere; I disputed the headlines, the framing, the context, and the false pretense of Rose’s interview). 

COOPER: Finally, Michael Rubin, a former Iraq adviser who you interview, said that — that the press release was a — he called it a cheap political shot a few days before the election.  And he went on to say not only that — that you cherry-picked the quotes to give a different conclusion to what people were making. He says, “I would challenge ‘Vanity Fair’ right now to release the full transcripts of all the interviews, so that people can judge for themselves.” Is that a possibility?

ROSE: Well, let — let me just deal with that point he makes. I mean, and let — let me say, I — I — I have a high regard for Michael Rubin. But I just cannot accept that — that what is on the Web site misrepresents his views. The truth is that, if — if one reads these interviews in full, they amount to a much more sweeping criticism of the way the administration has functioned. Now, will the magazine put the interviews on the Web site in their entirety? Well, you know, that’s a question for the editors. And all I can say is, we may do. 

A lot of people have said that I and others were naïve for talking to a reporter from Vanity Fair.  In retrospect, that’s obviously true.  Everyday we have to make judgments about reporters’ integrity and ethics.  Some people will only speak to sympathetic reporters; I’m in the camp that believes arguments are made to those with whom we disagree.  I don’t speak to anyone from The New York Times, the New Yorker, The American Prospect, or Vatan (a Turkish paper) because some of their reporters have eschewed ethics and moved beyond bias into fabrication.  The irony of Vanity Fair’s hit job is that no one outside a few bloggers and muckrakers really care; the whole episode was a tempest in the teapot, the type of Washington inside baseball that most people outside the Beltway hate.  The sad thing is that the Vanity Fair and, for that matter, New York Times, is that their editors live in such a bubble that they don’t understand how little credibility they have anymore. As Vanity Fair showed, and www.timeswatch.org documents every day, a major casualty of this election is going to be the reputation of the press.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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