The incident drew wide coverage earlier this week: an audience member at a large right-wing forum in Washington, DC, on, what else, Benghazi, was taunted by a crowd after simply asking why panelists were acting like most Muslims are terror-connected. The woman was clearly identifiable as a Muslim herself. Dana Milbank of The Washington Post was there to offer the bad news.
But then Dylan Byers, media reporter at Politico, after getting the organizers’ spin, charged that Milbank’s account was misleading. He claimed that the event was merely held at the Heritage Foundation, they were not behind it. And he asserted that the taunting was over-hyped and the woman didn’t seem to really mind all that much. So Milbank’s account was a “disaster.”
Well, Milbank has responded this morning by throwing the same charge back at Byers. He claimsthat the Politico columnist was basing his retort on a nine-minute video of the entire proceedings—while Milbank was actually there and saw the whole thing. Heritage, in fact, was a co-sponsor of the event. The woman, in fact, was very upset. The taunting and cheering actually was considerable. And so on.
We’ll chart how Byers responds. But Milbank, while qualifying a couple of his own statements (now that a full video is out), hits him hard, especially for allegedly lazy “armchair” reporting.
It’s possible, of course, that Byers could have sat at my side for the entire event and still thought I misjudged it; such interpretations are subjective. But had he witnessed all these remarks, and heard the hisses in the audience and observed the moderator’s sneers, he might have understood better the exchange with Ahmed that followed. That’s why there is no substitute for shoe-leather reporting.
UPDATE Byers so far has only responded on Twitter, with: "Two quick thoughts -- 1. Funny that
@Milbank's talking shoe-leather journalism after failing to adequately report on an event he attended...… and 2, you'd be surprised, @Milbank, how much news you can break from an armchair." Meanwhile, latest Milbank piece has drawn 613 comments, and counting.
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