October 20, 2006
Dear Mr. Bartholet:
Your Oct. 11 reply to Dorrance Smith was forwarded to me. As you know, we had written to your editor in New York regarding the Department’s concerns about Newsweek’s Oct. 2 article on Afghanistan.
In your reply, you stated that “the thrust of Defense Department [sic] position is that you disagree with our analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.” That is not our position. Our position is that your article asserted as facts things that were either arguably or demonstrably untrue. (Our response to those assertions is attached—again.)
It concerns us that you now label your disputed article as an “analysis of the situation in Afghanistan”—which implies subjectivity—even though your readers were led to believe that your article was an objective news story. As you are aware, responsible newspapers that seek to insert their reporter’s opinions into articles clearly label those stories as an “analysis” so as not to mislead readers. We therefore ask that you not only correct the misstatements of facts in your article, but also request that you offer your readers a clarification that the article was not intended as an objective news story.
You write that you cannot afford us “space in the news hole of the magazine to lay out the government position in detail,” and instead suggest writing a letter to the editor “concisely stating your point of view.”
This is a troubling response. First, a “concise” letter to the editor, of say, 200 words, cannot adequately address an [sic] 2200-word article containing a series of false assertions. Second, the issue is not Newsweek’s position versus the “government position.” The issue is that your readers were given a one-sided, opinion-laced article on Afghanistan based on falsehoods—which is something that journalists and editors are usually concerned about. Your dismissive reply is disappointing, to say the least.
I hope you will reconsider our request for a fair opportunity to correct the record for your readers.
Office of Public Affairs
CC: Jon Meacham