I understand the desire to be first with information.
But that desire probably shouldn’t include, at least if you’re in Western media, the parroting of Iranian state-run media. This is especially true if the story in question involves Iran’s attacks targeting U.S. forces.
That’s exactly what MSNBC got called out for by many — including Donald Trump Jr. — in the wake of Iran’s reprisals.
As it turns out, the missile attacks against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq turned out to claim no lives, American or otherwise. However, Iranian state media immediately jumped into the void to make wild claims about how the attacks had killed between 30 and 80 of our soldiers.
That Iran would know and announce before our own sources how many of our troops were killed when they lobbed 22 missiles Iraq’s way seems odd — if almost laughable — on its face.
Repeating it might be necessary if just to say that this is what Iranian state media was saying. It should also be repeated with the caveat that Iranian state media is in the business of lying on behalf of the Iranian regime.
For instance, in full disclosure, I cited the 80 U.S. deaths figure in an article while noting that the U.S. had not reported any casualties and that “[g]iven the relative trustworthiness of the two sources, I’d say the latter is much, much closer to the truth.”
So, when this got reported on MSNBC, it’s easy to see why there was some level of incredulity:
MSNBC helped Iran push the false claim that 30 U.S. soldiers were killed tonight in their attack. Zero were killed.
This isn’t just fake news, this is so damn disrespectful to the family members of those deployed.
Do better or delete your network.pic.twitter.com/2l9KzsNPc5
— Jason Howerton (@jason_howerton) January 8, 2020
Do you think MSNBC was rooting for a war with Iran?
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That’s NBC News’ Tehran bureau chief, Ali Arouzi, talking about the Iranian state media claim.
Yes, he said “this bit I’m not sure about.”
As a preface goes, that’s fairly weak stuff. When citing Iranian state media, you should say something like, “well, they’re usually full of garbage” or “this is coming from the official mouthpiece of the regime,” not “this bit I’m not sure about.”
Furthermore, it ends with: “But we have just stepped over the precipice, Chris. We have entered a very unpredictable time. We have to see what the response will be from the United States.”
A longer clip of Arouzi reveals even more problems with his appearance:
“This is drawing people from all sides into this what is potentially the beginning of a war,” Arouzi said.
“I don’t know how this is going to go in the coming hours, but it’s not looking good from the rhetoric that came out from President Trump earlier today saying that he will retaliate against any retaliation from Iran. I think we can expect an attack on Iran imminently.”
There has been no imminent attack on Iran. A number of good calls from this Arouzi chap, I’d say.
This wasn’t the only incidence of media reporting disinformation from Iran’s state-run media as if it were legitimate (more on that later) but it was the most conspicuous — conspicuous enough to get the attention of the president’s son.
They sound like they were actually hoping for that outcome. I guess they too were really upset about their loss this weekend too. https://t.co/AcdJjwQUvk
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 8, 2020
“They sound like they were actually hoping for that outcome,” Trump Jr. said.
“I guess they too were really upset about their loss this weekend too.”
I’m assuming he’s talking about Iranian terrorist Qassem Soleimani’s death, which happened in the early morning hours of Friday Iraq time.
That said, there does sound to be an element of anticipation here — if not anticipation of dead Americans, at least the anticipation of a juicy story.
I’m reminded of more funereal atmospheres in the MSNBC newsroom in response to far juicier stories that didn’t involve the potential of any death. One on the night of Nov. 8, 2016, springs immediately to mind.
By the way, this actually wasn’t the worst of the stories that relied on Iran’s state media. Consider this headline from Raw Story: “Iran state media claims 30 killed in missile strike — but no casualties reported by US or Iraq.”
The story contains two full paragraphs and a tweet (from Arouzi, predictably), and can be read either way in terms of who they trust here — although, given the sequencing of the facts and that most of them come from state media (or a report from CNN which claimed there were casualties, but they were Iraqi), you can probably guess what side Raw Story is on.
The fact that Raw Story is to the left of MSNBC should give you an additional clue.
Also of interest, check out the banner that met me at the top of the Raw Story website:
Help them report the truth about Trump’s Iran fiasco … by donating to them so they can amplify messages from Iranian state media.
Iranian state media isn’t parrot-worthy.
We’re not talking the BBC here, and MSNBC knows this full well. This was a galling miscalculation on Arouzi’s part — and at some level, on the network’s part, too.
There wasn’t any pushback and there apparently weren’t any directives against using Iran’s media without confirming the story with another source.
Absent those, the network had a horrible night Tuesday — and it was wholly deserved.
This was saber-rattling, plain and simple. They wanted a better story than the one that existed.
Thank goodness they didn’t get it.
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