NYT’s Nick Confessore Grills Judith Miller On WMD Reporting: ‘Your Stories Were Wrong’
Judith Miller, the ex-New York Times reporter whose coverage of Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction was widely discredited in the wake of the Iraq War, appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” as part of a renewed attempt to resuscitate her reputation.
The interview comes on the heels of the release of Miller’s latest book, The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, which chronicles the journalist’s rocky saga with The Times. Though she claims to not be “score settling,” Miller accused the newspaper Monday of letting her take the fall for the inaccurate reporting because leadership saw her as a “pushy woman.” And she continued to blame her sources for feeding her inaccurate information.
The New York Times’ political reporter Nick Confessore pressed Miller to take responsibility for her actions, rather than blaming her sources and her former employer.
“It just feels like an epidemic of buck-passing here,” Confessore said. “Your stories were wrong, right? The paper did defend you when you were on trial. Listen, if I have a story and it’s wrong, I don’t say the sources are wrong. I was wrong and my story was wrong.”
Miller seemed to accept some level of culpability, admitting that her stories had been flawed, but faulted The Times for not allowing her to re-report her work.
“What I want to do is go back and show how and why the sources — and I — got it wrong, and The Times wouldn’t let me do that,” she said. “That’s what is reprehensible. You always have to go back and correct the record.” (Watch the video above to see how Miller throws in the “and I” as an afterthought.)
Miller’s flawed reporting, however, had long been brought to the attention of editors at the paper. Craig Pyes, a two-time Pulitzer winner, warned her editors in late 2000:
“I’m not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller … I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her … She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies,” and “tried to stampede it into the paper.”
Much of Miller’s reporting was based on information provided by Ahmed Chalabi, who by the early 2000s was well-known not to be credible, and had in fact been convicted of massive bank fraud in Jordan.
It was the paper’s fault, said Miller. “Rather than the paper saying, ‘Hey, we published what we knew at the time,’ the paper kind of panicked, and they said, ‘We have to find someone to blame for this,'” she said. “There must be a lack of skepticism rather than there was a consensus and everyone believed it. So they turned around and they highlighted the pushy woman, I think.”
“A man is an aggressive reporter, but a woman is pushy,” she continued. “It wasn’t the paper’s finest hour.”
Stephen Engelberg, Miller’s former editor at the paper, did indeed refer to the journalist in similar terms at the time, also suggesting that her work needed to be conducted under a watchful eye.
“Judy is a very intelligent, very pushy reporter,” he said in 2005. “Like a lot of investigative reporters, Judy benefits from having an editor who’s very interested and involved with what she’s doing.”
Citing White House officials and Iraqi defectors, Miller’s series of exclusive, front-page stories on Hussein and his alleged capacity to produce WMD was seen as justification for the Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003. In 2005, after much of her reporting had already been discredited, Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to divulge the identity of a confidential source.
“This was a terrible moment, and what they did to me after I came out of jail — had gone to jail for 85 days for the First Amendment — was the kind of panic that set in,” she said on “Morning Joe.”
— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.