Earlier this week, I lambasted Robert Morgenthau for his alarmist, fear-mongering speech at the Brookings Institution and op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which he suggested darkly that Iran and Venezuela were engaged in cooperation on nuclear weapons and that the two countries were secretly building ominous factories in remote areas of Venezuela. He seemed to imply a 2009 version of the Cuban missile crisis is in the works, and like some modern-day Paul Revere, he’s riding to the rescue.
In the blog entry, I mentioned that Morgenthau’s thesis was transmitted, in even more simplistic and alarmist form, over WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., by J.J. Green, the station’s national security correspondent. After seeing my blog posting, Green helpfully sent me an audio of the broadcast, which I’ve transcribed below. In my mind, it’s a stunning example of bad journalism. As you will see, if you bother to read it, not once do Green or the WTOP anchors express an ounce of skepticism about Morgenthau’s thesis, nor do they raise an single question about it. They simply regurgitate what Morgenthau said, as if the Manhattan D.A.’s tendentious and ideologically driven analysis is the Word of God. The transcript, in italics, follows below, along with my comments:
ANCHOR 1: There’s an East-West connection that’s raising alarm bells in the US because of who the players are and what they might be up to. It’s about Iran and Venezuela, two countries with half a century of diplomatic ties, but now those ties appear to be morphing into something more cohesive, more directed, and more threatening.
Notice how the anchor says, right up front, that the Iran-Venezuela ties are “threatening,” not even bothering to mention that it’s Morgenthau’s opinion, not fact.
ANCHOR 2: And joining us with insights into Iran’s connections in Latin America, WTOP’s National Security Correspondent, J.J. Green. And J.J., this issue got a lot of attention because yesterday, Manhattan’s legendary district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, talked about it in a speech at the Brookings Institution. What is he suggesting here?
A nice touch, that “legendary.” Meaning, don’t question what he says.
JJ GREEN: He’s suggesting that we should not sleep on Iran and Venezuela. We shouldn’t think that they’re just exercising their geopolitical rights to get together and talk business and make business and make deals. What he’s saying is, that Iran and Venezuela hate the U.S., the U.S. needs to look very carefully at their financial connections, and even more carefully at what’s going on out in the remote areas of Venezuela, where there’ve been construction projects that no one seems to really know what’s going on, and he’s also saying that we need to keep an eye on what’s happening between Iran and Venezuela when it comes to nuclear weapons technology and things that are used to facilitate that.