Seymour Hersh was likely counting on his reputation cutting through any obstacles that could prevent him from pulling off what is probably the last “blockbuster” of his career. And he did meet an obstacle: He is pretending to break a broken story—and he knows it.
… people were writing stories accusing me a [sic] plagiarism in the press in the last two days. You know, Politico, which does great stuff, has a blog in which they said this sort of wacky stuff. A 10,000 word article that’s plagiarized? [hyperlinks added]
Setting aside the apparent assertion that 10,000 words make it okay to take credit for someone else’s story, “wacky stuff” in the referenced 2011 blog article included, among other points:
- The story of finding bin Laden was total fiction
- OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant
- The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
- Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
- Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
This “wacky stuff” seems familiar—as in identical to the claims he made in his The London Review of Books article.
HERSH KNEW HE WAS DISMISSING A CLAIM HE DID NOT BREAK THE STORY
At the time of his statement, the Huffington Post had already sent him my blog post for comment and Hersh had responded. HuffPost quotes Hersh denying prior knowledge of it.
He also knew that the “wacky stuff” involved a four-year-old version of his story.
In the Democracy Now! Interview, Hersh acknowledged reading that day’s The New York Times piece about his work. That same NYT article confirmed that I wrote about the story first.
Hersh’s deflection was intentional as was his lack of accountability.
WHAT DID HE KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?
So did Hersh read my work before he wrote the piece?
As discussed in the earlier post and elsewhere, it was virtually impossible to reseach these topics on the internet without running across my inconvenient articles. Every journalist has a responsibility to conduct due diligence on a story and Hersh had the reputation of being dogged.
Yesterday he claimed his kids kept him off Twitter; today he told Raw Story, “I probably did not even know what a blog was four years ago…at the least, just barely. No social media skills.”
And did he barely know what a blog was three years ago? Two years ago? Last month during copy-editing?
No social media skills may explain why he left no comments on the blog, but it is a frail excuse for failure to conduct due diligence. As we all know, a blog—a weblog--is a web page. No experience, no app required. Thousands of websites referenced my 2011 story.
Any claim of not using the internet may have been taken seriously in the 1990s, but the web has existed for 22 years now and the use of Lexis-Nexis and other databases in journalism predate that. It’s been over a decade since George W. Bush was lampooned for his use of the “Internets.”
Our world is digital and it has been for a long time now. Any journalist not doing web-based fact checking today is negligent, grossly negligent.
I do not believe Hersh is grossly negligent. At least I don’t want to. He’s a legend.
BREAKING A BROKEN STORY
Hersh’s work is at best confirmation of my story and therein lies his problem. How could a legendary journalist sell a blockbuster story to the world when the story had already been broken?
The answer is pedigree as the NYT so awkwardly captured it. And if that doesn’t work and you actually have to answer questions about it, there’s always the cranky old man defense that he displayed in his Raw Story response.
Unless he is grossly negligent, Hersh apparently counted on his weight as a journalistic legend to hide or at least obscure that his “blockbuster” was not a scoop. His “blockbuster” was only confirmation of someone else’s work, a mere blogger’s work no less.
THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS FACT-CHECKING
According to the New York Magazine, Hersh claimed that the piece was rigorously fact-checked by the The London Review of Books.
No internets on that side of the Pond? Perhaps they didn’t have access to the London papers that carried the original 2011 story?
Even a part-time fact-checker would have found one of the thousands of websites that referenced it.
Just like Hersh, The London Review of Books was most likely counting on the hubris of a legend to walk right through any challenges.
Hersh deliberately obfuscated questions that he should be held accountable to.
Hersh is not accountable for his sources--understandably so given the sensitivity of intelligence reporting. However, now he’s demonstrated that he’s not accountable for other aspects of his work—aspects that that involve protecting Seymour Hersh rather than protecting his sources.
 To be clear, I wrote, “If it’s fiction, it’s plagiarism. If it’s true, it’s not original….I do not believe it’s fiction.” I have been widely misquoted that I accused him of plagiarism.