Syndicated Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer Uses Fabricated Sharon Quote

In a May 10, 2002 column (“Now Isn’t the Time for Bush League Moves”), nationally-syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer included bogus and inflammatory allegations against Prime Minister Sharon and Israel’s supporters in America.

First, she wrote:

In fact, it [American support for Israel’s actions] led Prime Minister Sharon to tell his Cabinet recently, “I control America.”

CAMERA conducted extensive Nexis and Internet searches, and found that no mainstream news organization reported as true the fabricated quotation.

The hoax originated with an October 3, 2001 press release from the pro-Hamas group, the Islamic Association for Palestine. It said:

An acrimonious argument erupted during the Israeli cabinet weekly session last week between Ariel Sharon and his foreign Minister Shimon Peres during which Sharon reportedly yelled at Peres, saying “don’t worry about American pressure, we control America.”

Notably, in the same press release, the direct quotation “we control America” changed to “we the Jewish people control America.”

IAP wrote:

According [to] the Israeli Hebrew radio, Col [sic] Yisrael Wednesday, Peres warned Sharon that refusing to heed incessant American requests for a cease-fire with the Palestinians would endanger Israeli interests and turn the US against us. At this point, a furious Sharon reportedly turned toward Peres, saying “…I want to tell you something clear, don’t worry about American pressure on Israel, we the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.”

According to the IAP press release, the statement was reported on Kol Yisrael. However, CAMERA’s calls to Kol Yisrael confirmed that no such broadcast occurred.

Geyer’s second problematic claim was:

Look at U.S. television: One minute, you see pro-Israeli ads saying the Arabs are all dogs…

However, here too investigation turned up no evidence that any such ad ever appeared on U.S. television.

Since the Sharon “quotation” and the “Arabs are dogs” ad are preposterous on their face, one would have expected Geyer (and editors who publish her column) to verify their accuracy before including such inflammatory statements in her column.

Geyer’s piece, which is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, is known to have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and the San Diego Union Tribune.

UPDATE (June 15, 2002): Geyer Expresses “Regrets”

CAMERA notified Geyer’s editors that the Sharon “quote” originated on a pro-Hamas website (the Islamic Association for Palestine), and that it had not been corroborated by any reputable media organization. CAMERA also pointed out that IAP’s alleged source, a report on Israel radio, is apparently fictional – Kol Yisrael denied to CAMERA that it had ever broadcast any such report.

When CAMERA requested substantiation from Geyer, the columnist first asserted that she was abroad and would have to check her notes when she got back home in June. After CAMERA contacted editor Bruce Dold of the Chicago Tribune (which ran the Geyer column), he replied:

Ms. Geyer does indeed cite the same sources you note [an Islamic Association for Palestine press release that claimed Kol Yisrael radio reported the 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 [concerning the alleged television ads], that is not a direct quote from an ad, but Geyer’s own interpretation of the nature of the content.

Informed that the Kol Yisrael reporter assigned to cover the Israeli Cabinet [where the Sharon statement was alleged to have been made] denied Sharon had made the attributed comment, Dold responded with a different story from Geyer. She now claimed that her sources were two anonymous Israelis.

Finally, Geyer’s syndicate disseminated the following Editor’s Note which appeared on June 14 in the Chicago Tribune and Sarasota Herald Tribune and will likely be published by other papers that ran Geyer’s May 10 column.

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.

While the syndicate thus admitted that “This quote…cannot be confirmed in independent sources,” it failed to state unambiguously that Sharon never uttered the words and that the alleged quotation first appeared in a press release from the pro-Hamas IAP. 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. The syndicate also should have written “alleged quote” whenever referring to the supposed statement by Sharon.

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 had she cited “Palestinian sources.” Obviously, since these sources have been proven false, the quote should not have been published at all.

Additionally, the Editor’s Note fails entirely to address the other baseless assertion in Geyer’s May 10 column, her outrageous statement: “Look at U.S. television: One minute, you see pro-Israeli ads saying the Arabs are all dogs…”

Repeated CAMERA requests for Geyer to identify the specific ad that led to her “interpretation” have gone unanswered. Clearly there is no way that her readers could have understood that she was “interpreting” rather than paraphrasing or quoting from a supposed ad. Since it is extremely unlikely that any “U.S. television” station would have broadcast any such ad, Geyer and her syndicate owe her readers another “Editor’s Note” or apology.

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