5.1: HuffPost’s use of lies to help “sell” the Iran deal
Part of the special report, The Rhodes To HuffPost
(1) Rouhani is “a moderate”
Since 2013, HuffPost has constructed and given top, sustained coverage to “news” stories that propagate the lie that Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, is “a moderate.” Its campaign began with this front page splash headline, on June 15, 2013:
Over the following months, HuffPost published scores of similar, glowing stories about Rouhani, even though it knew, or should have known, that prior to and after his election, he voiced support for Iran’s global terrorism operations, and had personally incited Iranians to want to destroy America and Israel.
Here are some of the public statements of this “moderate” – starting with an open threat against America, on May 8, 2013 – only five weeks before HuffPost published the above splash headline:
“Saying ‘Death to America’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action. Saying it is easy.”
– Hassan Rouhani, at a May 8, 2013 campaign rally in the city of Karaj, as reported by the Iranian state-run Mehr News Agency, and the Wall St. Journal.
“The beautiful cry of ‘Death to America’ unites our nation.”
– Hassan Rouhani, May 1995
“If your definition of terrorist groups are Hezbollah* and Hamas, they are not terrorists. They are the kinds of groups who are fighting for the freedom of land.”
– Hassan Rouhani, September 12, 2002 interview with ABC News. *Hezbollah is the Iran-funded terrorist group that murdered 241 U.S. Marines in 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon. Both it and Hamas have openly declared their intention to destroy America and Israel, and both are dependent upon Iran for a significant portion of their funding, arms and terrorism training.
“Iran has always been against terrorism, and has always fought against terrorism.”
– Hassan Rouhani, September 12, 2002 interview with ABC News.
“We recognize Israel as a terrorist nation.”
– Hassan Rouhani, September 12, 2002 interview with ABC News.
HuffPost, however, has published none of these extremist, violent statements, or any that Rouhani has made since his election. See a sampling of these statements, compiled by United Against Nuclear Iran: “Rouhani: In His Own Words”
In the three years since Rouhani became its President, Iran has continued or even escalated its domestic terrorism, and threats to America and Israel under his “moderate” leadership. A sampling:
Iran Executes Two for ‘Perversion’ [being gay]; Third dealt death sentence for ‘insulting the prophet,’ by Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon, March 3, 2014.
Number Of Iran Executions Higher Under President Hassan Rouhani Than Ahmadinejad, by Alessandria Masi, International Business-Times, October 30, 2014.
Dozens of Iranian Students Given 99 Lashes Each for Dancing at Coed Graduation Party, The Tower, May 31, 2016.
Iran’s long list of broken promises: Rouhani’s pledge to defend human rights should have been delivered with a cynical snicker, by Ilan Berman and Mollie Adatto, The Washington Times, December 5, 2013.
See more examples of Rouhani’s extremist statements and actions in Section 1.5 of our Resources page: “The false claim that Hassan Rouhani is a “moderate.”
HuffPost reported none of these incidents. Instead, as is documented in Sections 5.2 and 5.4 of this report, HuffPost has instead only presented glowing portrayals of both Rouhani and Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Khamenei (example: Khamenei’s sadness that “no one goes hiking anymore,” as a “news” story).
(2) Those who criticized or opposed the Iran deal did so because they wanted the U.S. to go to war with Iran
One of the core “narratives” conjured up by Ben Rhodes and his colleagues, both inside and outside of the White House propaganda “war room” he created, was to falsely claim that anyone who criticized or opposed the deal was doing so only because they wanted America to go to war with Iran. For example, a recent expose’ revealed an internal memo at The Ploughshares Fund (which collaborated with Rhodes, and made significant financial donations to “journalists” and “experts” to help sell the Iran deal) that confirmed the fact that this narrative was a “messaging strategy,” unmoored from reality:
“On a messaging note, it would be best to describe them as ‘pro-war,’ and leave it to them to back off that characterization of their position,” they wrote.
Excerpt from: The Secret History of the Iran-Deal ‘Echo Chamber’, by Eli Lake, Bloomberg News, May 24, 2016.
This entire narrative was a lie, as HuffPost’s editors knew or should have known before it engaged in this scorched-Earth campaign of hatred, lies and attacks. As documented in Section 1 of this report’s Resources page, there were literally dozens of substantive, well-documented reasons why critics were opposing the deal. A sampling:
- In early 2015, Iran endorsed nuclear EMP attack on United States.
- Throughout the “negotiations” over the deal, Iran’s top leaders repeatedly led public chants of “Death To America!”
- Iran had been caught repeatedly violating the terms of the “interim nuclear deal”.
- Iran refused to pay any of the U.S. federal court judgments to the American victims of its terrorism, including its assistance to Al Qaeda to perpetrate the 9/11 attacks.
Despite these facts, as this slide show demonstrates, HuffPost repeatedly published splash headlines that publicized the lie that anyone who criticized or opposed the deal wanted war with Iran:
HuffPost’s approach to lying about, and attacking both Republican and Democratic critics of the deal is notable in itself, due to the fact that it routinely ignores or whitewashes Democrats who engage in the same behavior for which it excoriates Republicans. When it came to helping Rhodes et al to “sell” the Iran deal, however, HuffPost also began smearing any Democrat who dared to criticize or oppose it.
Even the second-most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), publicly castigated this smear campaign against critics of the deal, starting soon after it began, January 2014:
Hoyer: W.H. aide ‘irresponsible’, by Ginger Gibson, Politico, January 14, 2014.
“There have been some that have suggested in the White House that those folks were more interested in war than they were in the resolution by peaceful means. I think that is absolutely untrue, [an] irresponsible assertion, and ought to be clarified and retracted by those who have made it within the administration,” Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Tuesday morning. “Nobody believes, as far as I know, that going to war with Iran is anything but a dangerous objective that none of us would seek.”
And in 2015, Hoyer, along with Republican colleagues in Congress, again blasted this pattern of lying about the motives of critics of the Iran deal:
Obama’s Iran Deal-or-War Warning Attracts Bipartisan Criticism, by Kathleen Miller and Calev Ben-David, Bloomberg, August 6, 2015.
President Barack Obama’s warning that the Iran nuclear deal comes down to a choice “between diplomacy or some form of war” drew criticism from both the Senate’s Republican leader and the House’s No. 2 Democrat. […] Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, said the tone was counterproductive. “Characterizing people who may be in opposition to the agreement as wanting to go to war as an alternative, I’m not comfortable with that, and I wish the White House wouldn’t do that,” Hoyer, who is leading a visit of 22 Democratic House members to Israel this week, said in an interview in Jerusalem on Thursday. “I don’t think the alternatives are going to war, and I’ve indicated that” to the White House.
HuffPost pubished none of these objections, from Hoyer or any other member of Congress.
(3) Sen. Schumer’s criticism was “disingenuous”
One of the more notable aspects of the HuffPost’s “jihad” of lies to support the Iran deal was its willingness to attack even Democrats who criticized it.
On August 10, 2015, HuffPost published this story as a “news” item (as opposed to an op-ed) on its front page:
The only content on the page to which this headline linked was a link to the following article by Foreign Policy (below), which responds to this open, substantive letter that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wrote, in opposition to the deal:
Chuck Schumer’s Disingenuous Iran Deal Argument, by Jeffrey Lewis, Foreign Policy, August 9, 2015. Excerpt (emphasis added):
Schumer starts by repeating the claim that “inspections are not ‘anywhere, anytime’; the 24-day delay before we can inspect is troubling.” This would be very troubling if it were true. It isn’t. […] Let’s get this straight. The agreement calls for continuous monitoring at all of Iran’s declared sites — that means all of the time — including centrifuge workshops, which are not safeguarded anywhere else in the world. Inspectors have immediate access to these sites.
One reason that HuffPost had reason to know that Schumer was telling the truth was the fact that nearly one month earlier, on July 15, Ben Rhodes explicitly admitted that what Schumer said was true:
Rhodes: We Never Sought Anytime, Anywhere Inspections in Iran Deal, by David Rutz, Washington Free Beacon, July 15, 2015.
Then, on July 19, CBS News quoted Secretary of State John Kerry as saying he’d never heard anyone say there would be “anytime, anywhere inspections”:
Kerry: I never heard “anytime, anywhere” inspections promise in 4 years, by Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News, July 19, 2015. Excerpt (emphasis added):
Secretary of State John Kerry said the nuclear inspection system the U.S. negotiated with Iran is a “huge accomplishment” even though international inspectors could have to wait up to 24 days to access undeclared nuclear sites. In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday, Kerry argued that having “anytime, anywhere” access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites was “not on the table” and a term “I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating.”
Yet HuffPost published the inaccurate Foreign Policy screed against Schumer more than three weeks later, long after it knew, or should have known, that he was accurately assessing that crucial aspect of the deal.
And as shown in this screencap, taken May 29, 2016, HuffPost never updated its story, or published any kind of a retraction on its front page, to correct the record:
Others began picking up on this false narrative, and the fact that it was being driven, at least in part, on anti-Semitic themes, as the Tablet pointed out:
Crossing a Line To Sell a Deal: The White House and its allies shouldn’t need to smear American Jews–and a sitting senator–as dual loyalists to make their case, by The Tablet Editorial Board, August 7, 2015. Excerpt:
As heated as the arguments between us can get, we can all agree that all of these positions, and their many variants, are entirely within the bounds of legitimate political debate—and that none of them are evidence of anyone’s intent either to rush America to war or to obliterate the State of Israel.
What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Sen. Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple. Accusing senators and congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.
This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives.
(4) “Iran’s hardliners are just like their Western counterparts”
On October 25, 2013, HuffPost published this editorial as a “news” item on its front page (instead of on the left column, where its op-eds appear):
Before we begin dismantling this lie, it is worth recalling that Iran’s “hardliners” are well-known for: (a) their justifications for leading the world’s #1 terror-state; (b) hanging gays in the streets, for the “crime” of being gay; (c) throwing political dissenters into notorious torture prisons; and (d) supporting the world’s most vicious terrorist groups. Any assertion that Western leaders have anything remotely in common with Iran’s Islamist fascist terrorists is outrageous on the surface.
The HuffPost “journalist” behind the article, Joshua Hersh, asserted that Iran’s “hardliners” are comparable to their Western counterparts in four ways:
“1. They want total victory. Anything less would be a disaster.
2. Their timing is way off.
3. They keep ratcheting up the pressure.
4. They view the other side as violent, unpredictable and untrustworthy.”
One example will suffice to demonstrate the depths to which HuffPost went to lie in this article – and venture into overt anti-Semitism (screencap):
1. They want total victory. Anything less would be a disaster.
Those in the West, led by the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC and many members of Congress, believe Iran should be permitted no enrichment whatsoever. A slightly softer view, offered by a leading Israeli think tank, calls anything short of absolute cessation of enrichment a “bad” alternative — although it allows that enrichment at the lower, energy-sufficient level, would be a “less good, but still reasonable,” solution. […]
Continuing its long history of libels and assaults on Israel, HuffPost claimed the Jewish state was bad, because it was demanding (and bullying others into demanding) that Iran completely dismantle its nuclear program.
Yet HuffPost made no mention in this article of the fact that almost exactly one year earlier, on October 23, 2012, during the final presidential debate, it was Barack Obama – for whom HuffPost acted as a 24-7 cheerleader – who promised America that if we re-elect him, the only deal he would accept with Iran would be the complete dismantling of its nuclear program:
Bob Schieffer (moderator): “As you know, there are reports that Iran and the United States a part of an international group, have agreed in principle to talks about Iran’s nuclear program. What is the deal, if there are such talks? What is the deal that you would accept, Mr. President?
Obama: “[O]ur goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place. [T]he deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.”
Apparently, that is precisely the kind of “hardline” attitude for which HuffPost excoriated Israel, Jews who constitute AIPAC, and the “Western leaders” over whom it asserts they exercise control. Yet HuffPost mentioned nothing of the fact that the first “hardliner” in this equation, who established the standard that Iran must completely dismantle and end its nuclear program, was President Obama. Further, HuffPost knew or should have known that there had been dozens of substantive analyses done prior to its publication of this article that exposed Iran’s long history of terrorism, and its explicit threats to annihilate Israel, and eventually the U.S. Yet again, it made no mention of them in this article.
Is Joshua Hersh representative of the illiterate, gullible “journalists” whom Ben Rhodes openly admitted to the New York Times he dealt with, throughout the debate over the Iran deal?
“The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing. […] We created an echo chamber… they were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
The questions is actually irrelevant – because it was HuffPost senior editors who made the decision to publish this article on its front page, as “news,” despite their claims of being a nonpartisan, professional “news” organization; one example:
“The Huffington Post has in place rigorous editorial policies and standards… to ensure that we maintain the highest level of journalistic integrity.”
Flashback: Jason Linkins, a HuffPost “political reporter,” excoriating a journalist from another website for shoddy research:
Were this being written for a responsible journalistic entity, some creature called an “editor” would have stepped in and said, “Hey, Jerome, you realize that by your own findings, you article is complete horseshit, right?” But this is World Net Daily, written by and for complete charlatans.
(5) Perpetuating the lie that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Congress’s invitation to address it, before President Obama had been notified
At 7:50am on March 2, 2015, a few hours before Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, HuffPost published this splash headline story. Note that the headline copy put incendiary words into Netanyahu’s mouth, clearly implying that he had done something to insult President Obama:
The story page to which this incendiary headline led contained this passage (emphasis added):
HUFFPOLLSTER: Netanyahu Visit Polarizes Americans, by Mark Blumenthal, Ariel Edwards-Levy and Janie Velencia, The Huffington Post, March 2, 2015 7:50 am ET.
“Nearly half of American voters — 48 percent — say that congressional Republicans should not have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Tuesday without first notifying President Barack Obama, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.”
This incendiary allegation originated in a story in the New York Times, that simply repeated an allegation by White House operatives that President Obama had not been notified in advance about Netanyahu’s acceptance of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to address Congress.
In reality, as HuffPost knew or should have known, the New York Times had corrected that false story more than a month earlier, on January 30, publishing this notation at the end of the article:
“An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.”
Omri Ceren of the Israel Project was the first to have caught the correction, and began publicizing this fact the same day, January 30, after which it went viral among those who supported Netanyahu speaking to Congress:
Ed Lasky at American Thinker publicized the NYT’s correction, and the fact that this was a lie that originated in the Obama administration, on January 31.
Further, according to a February 17 story by Bloomberg, a CNN-ORC survey revealed that nearly twice as many Americans said they wanted Netanyahu to speak to Congress, as those who didn’t (even though many assumed the White House false narrative was correct, about its not being informed in advance).
HuffPost has built one of the largest news rooms in America, with hundreds of journalists, researchers and editors. Is it possible that HuffPost was really unaware of the reality surrounding Netanyahu’s speech? Or, did it continue perpetuating this lie in order to discredit Netanyahu, and protect Rhodes’s “war room”?
One critical hint, as shown in this screencap from May 28, 2016, is that HuffPost never corrected its story, and as our records show, it never published a retraction on either its front page or World page.
The fact that others also perpetuated this lie (in this case, NBC News and the Wall St. Journal) is immaterial, because according to Arianna Huffington, what makes HuffPost different from, and better than other news organizations is that:
“There is an objective reality, and it is the media’s job to present it unequivocally.”