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Hullabaloo


Sunday, October 23, 2005

 
Judy's Enablers

I have been unable to find a complete copy of Craig Pyes' e-mail, the reporter who refused to share a byline with Judy Miller back in 2000 on the al Qaeda series. Howard Kurtz quoted pieces of it last week:

"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."


The LA Times today has a few more choice quotes today:

"A reason I don't have my name on any of her stories is precisely because of this sloppy, single-source reporting," warned Pyes, now a contract reporter with the Los Angeles Times, in the e-mail. "Which, believe me, when she reports closer to home, you're going to pay for someday. You heard it here first."


Has anyone seen this entire e-mail? This guy was prescient, as were a lot of people who worked with Miller.

The LA Times article delves deeply into how Judy was given so much rope to hang herself on the WMD stories --- it was clearly the work of Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, both of whom resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal.

After the prize-winning Al Qaeda series, then-Executive Editor Howell Raines (later forced out by the scandal over fabrications by reporter Jayson Blair) reportedly urged Miller to "go win [another] Pulitzer."

That directive made her even bolder, colleagues said.

Douglas Frantz, then Miller's boss as investigative editor — and more recently a Los Angeles Times reporter who this month was named an L.A. Times managing editor — said he and then-Foreign Editor Roger Cohen were undercut when their doubts led them to delay publishing several of Miller's stories on weapons of mass destruction.

After Miller complained, the New York Times' then-Managing Editor Gerald Boyd instructed the lower-ranking editors to get out of the star reporter's way, according to Frantz.

"Judy Miller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter," Frantz recalled Boyd telling him, "and your job is to get her stories into the paper."

Frantz said that despite that admonition, he blocked a Miller story about claims of 1,000 weapons sites in Iraq and also a profile of exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, a source of many of the overblown weapons reports.

Boyd could not be reached for comment.


I had not realized until I read this that Raines and Boyd had been around the paper as late as June of 2003. This clears something up for me. I have found it completely bizarre that Miller claimed she pitched the story to an editor and yet her editor, Jill Abramson, says it never happened. Miller refused to name the editor yesterday, which means she's either lying outright or she has a reason not to name the person.

The White House had been agitated about Wilson since the spring, particularly about Nicholas Kristoff's NYT columns in May, using Wilson as an anonymous source.
Raines and Boyd resigned on June 5, 2003.

I think it's likely that Miller pitched the idea to Raines or Boyd before they left, which means that she was on this Wilson beat weeks before she admits to it. And it explains why she won't say to whom she pitched it.

It also means that she could have been operating independently during this period, before Bill Keller was named executive editor and pulled her off the WMD beat. Keller wasn't kicked upstairs until July 14, 2003, coincidentally the day that Novak published his famous column.

Somebody should probably try to get Gerald Boyd and Howell Raines on the record.

Update: Expert Plame Kremlinologist Emptywheel writes in to remind me that Joseph Lelyveld was the interim editor during the period between Raines' and Boyd's resignations and Keller's promotion. I had assumed that the writers of the big story had asked him if he turned down Judy's pitch, but there is no record of it, so perhaps they didn't. If they haven't, they should.

If there is an editor (current or former)at the NY Times who knew of Judy Miller's interest in writing this story they need to come forward. And somebody needs to ask Judy why she's refusing to name him or her.



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