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Media Analyses





CAMERA ALERT: Time to Reopen Case on Geyer's Hoaxes


Since the revelations of massive plagiarizing and fabrication by New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, editors at other publications have often been more willing to investigate the public’s concerns about their own journalists.  This increased editorial rigor has resulted in the discovery of fabricated reports, some of them years old, by USA Today reporter Jack Kelley and Chicago Tribune reporter Uli Schmetzer.

In light of these recent developments, it is time to reopen the case of syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer. In a May 10, 2002, syndicated column that was published in numerous papers, including the Chicago Tribune,  Geyer falsely claimed that Prime Minister Sharon had told his Cabinet, “I control America.”  Geyer’s second bogus claim was: “Look at U.S. television: One minute, you see pro-Israeli ads saying the Arabs are all dogs...” CAMERA viewed the ads in question and none portrayed Arabs as dogs. The bogus Sharon quotation is a variation on a hoax disseminated by the Islamic Association for Palestine. And the IAP hoax is yet another variation on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion fabrication. 

When CAMERA requested substantiation for Geyer’s inflammatory statements, Editorial Page Editor Bruce Dold of the Chicago Tribune wrote in June 2002, “Ms. Geyer does indeed cite the same sources you note [the Islamic Association for Palestine press release, which falsely claimed Kol Yisrael radio reported the bogus Sharon statement ] on the Sharon quote. If you have a statement or confirmation from Kol Yisrael, I'd like to see it.  As for the second point, that is not a direct quote from an ad, but Geyer's own interpretation of the nature of the content.”

CAMERA informed Dold that Yoni Ben Menachem, the Kol Yisrael reporter assigned to cover the Israeli Cabinet [where the Sharon statement was alleged to have been made], said Sharon had made no such statement and that Kol Yisrael had never broadcast any such report. Dold responded that Geyer now claimed to have two anonymous Israeli sources for the quotation. Surprisingly, Dold did not find it implausible that two Israelis, presumably cabinet members, would have both bypassed all Israeli and other American journalists and gone only to Georgie Anne Geyer to reveal this bombshell of a quotation from Sharon.

Dold also appeared unconcerned that Geyer gave him two different versions of who her source was, and his trust in Geyer remained firm even when CAMERA informed him that Geyer gave an editor at the Sarasota Herald Tribune yet a third version of who her source was. Geyer told an editor there her source was the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, though she never supplied the alleged article. No such article appeared in Ha’aretz.

In response to CAMERA’s questions, Geyer’s syndicate, United Press Syndicate, disseminated the following inadequate Editor’s Note. It was published June 14, 2002 in the Chicago Tribune and Sarasota Herald Tribune. “Editor’s note: Georgie Anne Geyer’s May 10 column included a quote from Ariel Sharon, ‘I control America.’ This quote was widely reported in the Palestinian press but cannot be confirmed in independent sources. Geyer and Universal Press Syndicate regret not having attributed the quote more specifically.”

The syndicate editor admits that “This quote...cannot be confirmed in independent sources,” but refused to state that Sharon never uttered the words and that the alleged quotation first appeared in a press release from the pro-Hamas IAP (Islamic Association for Palestine). Since IAP said that Kol Yisrael was their source and Kol Yisrael denies broadcasting any such report, there should be no question that IAP was attempting to perpetrate a hoax.  (see note of denial from Kol Yisrael below)

Furthermore, the Editor’s Note implies that the problem was one merely of mistaken attribution – that it would have been acceptable for Geyer to use the bogus quotation in her column if she had only stated that it came from “Palestinian sources.”  However, since these sources have been proven false, by what conceivable logic is it appropriate to publish it at all?And what about Geyer’s later claim to Chicago Tribune editor Bruce Dold that two Israeli sources who wanted to remain anonymous gave her the quotation? Or her contradictory claim to the Sarasota Herald Tribune that her source was Ha'aretz?  It’s time for her editors to verify these so-called Israeli sources or to admit publicly that Geyer lied to them and that the quotation is bogus.

Additionally, the Editor’s Note failed entirely to address the other major hoax in Geyer’s May 10 column: “Look at U.S. television: One minute, you see pro-Israeli ads saying the Arabs are all dogs...”

Chicago Tribune’s Bruce Dold wrote CAMERA that “Arabs are all dogs” was Geyer’s “interpretation” of such ads.
However, there was no way that her readers could have understood that she was badly interpreting the ads rather
than paraphrasing or quoting from them.

Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely that any “U.S. television” station would have broadcast an ad proclaiming or implying that “the Arabs are all dogs.” After much prodding, Geyer did identify which ads she was “interpreting.” They were from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy. CAMERA viewed the ads, and none even remotely portrayed Arabs as dogs.Geyer, Geyer’s syndicate and the papers that published her column owe the public an apology.

ACTION ITEMS

* Write to the papers that published her column and urge that they re-open the investigation of the bogus claims made by Geyer in her May 10, 2002 column. Ask that they forthrightly acknowledge that Geyer was wrong and that Sharon never said “I control America” and that no pro-Israel TV ad said “the Arabs are all dogs.” Urge them to expose Geyer’s “anonymous sources” ruse and to apologize for not thoroughly investigating her shifting “sources” when they were first called into question by CAMERA in May 2002.
 
Chicago Tribune
Bruce Dold, Editorial Page Editor:  bdold@tribune.com
Ann Marie Lipinski, Editor: alipinski@tribune.com  or  ctc-editor@tribune.com
Don Wycliff, Public Editor (ombudsman): DWycliff@tribune.com
 
San Diego Union Tribune
Karen Winner, Editor:  karen.winner@uniontrib.com  619-293-1201
Bob Kittle, Editorial Page Editor: bob.kittle@uniontrib.com  619-293-1746
Reader's Rep:  readers.rep@uniontrib.com  (619) 293-1525 or (800) 244-6397
 
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Tom Tryon, Editorial page editor: tom.tryon@heraldtribune.com  941-957-5225
Reader Advocate: advocate@heraldtribune.com
 
Tulsa World
Joe Worley, Executive Editor: joe.worley@tulsaworld.com  581-8373
Ken Neal, Editorial Page Editor: ken.neal@tulsaworld.com 581-8330
 
* Please bring Geyer’s dissemination of inflammatory hoaxes to the attention of media critics and ask that they investigate and report what they find to the public.  Tell them that Geyer’s editors failed in their duty to protect the public from fabricated information and it is up to the media critics to expose the deceptive writing and shoddy editing. Be sure to include mention that Geyer gave 3 different accounts of who or what her alleged source was for the Sharon quotation: Kol Yisrael Radio, 2 anonymous Israeli sources, and Ha'aretz.  Remind them that the fabricated Sharon quotation was never broadcast or published by Kol Yisrael or Ha'aretz.  Ask that they expose Geyer’s unreliability and forthrightly acknowledge that Sharon never said “I control America” and that no pro-Israel TV ad in the U.S. said “the Arabs are all dogs.” 
 
Media critics:
 
newswatch@foxnews.com (Fox News Watch, host Eric Burns)
Reliable@CNN.com  (Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz)
kurtzh@washpost.com  (Wash. Post media critic Howard Kurtz)
rrieder@ajr.umd.edu (American Journalism Review; Editor Rem Rieder)
American Journalism Review tel#: 301-405-8803
 
*Regarding the fabricated Sharon quotation, you may also send to the critics and the editors an April 17, 2004, response from Yishai Eldar, Senior Editor, Kol Yisrael Radio English Language News Department, Jerusalem:

It's an interesting and persistent myth. This false-quote has previously been attributed in past years to Shimon Peres, the late Yitzhak Rabin (and for all I know, even Maimonides). It's a variant, of course, of the Protocols myth.  In any case, there was no such statement; there is no such quote; and there has never been any such broadcast.


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