5.2: HuffPost’s use of deception to help “sell” the Iran deal
Part of the special report, The Rhodes To HuffPost
“A half-truth is a whole lie.”
– Yiddish proverb
(1) Enabling a group of proven pro-Iran propagandists to be depicted only as “nonpartisan experts,” and to lie about opponents of the Iran deal
“At HuffPost there are guidelines that have to be followed — and they include a prohibition on conspiracy theories or inflammatory claims.”
On December 19, 2013, HuffPost published this splash headline as a “news” story on its front page:
This article was written by two HuffPost “journalists”: Joshua Hersh (whom we exposed in Section 5.1 for writing this discredited article), and Ryan Grim, its “Washington bureau chief.” The article hinged on what HuffPost claimed was a “report” by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which it depicted as follows (emphasis added; screencap):
Iran experts have decried the Senate’s attempts to impose new sanctions as a possible death blow to the first detente between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program.
“This would be a direct violation of the Geneva deal which would cause the collapse of the talks not due to Iranian sabotage, but American foul play,” said Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, which advocates better relations between Iran and the West.
Dr. Parsi is the President of the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization in the US.”
However, seven days later, on December 26, 2013, the Algemeiner exposed the reality of Parsi and the NIAC, which HuffPost either knew, or should have known. In summary:
- In April 2008, Parsi and NIAC filed a libel and defamation lawsuit in U.S. federal court against an investigative researcher, Seid Hassan Daioleslam, for alleging they are a front group for Iran’s mullahs.
- In September 2012, after more than four years of litigation, the court not only dismissed the case, with prejudice, after concluding that Daioleslam’s claims were correct, it ordered Parsi and NIAC to pay Daioleslam nearly $200,000.
From the Algemeiner article:
The Legal Project, a nonprofit that helps defend anti-terrorism researchers from retaliatory lawsuits by radical Islamists, claims Parsi and NIAC have “deep and incontrovertible ties to high-level agents of the Iranian regime,” and that this assertion was proved accurate in a September 2012 U.S. federal district court ruling:
The case reached national prominence when Parsi’s e-mails (produced during discovery) confirmed his ties to the mullahs […]
Federal District Court Judge John B. Bates for the District of Columbia yesterday granted summary judgment for Seid Hassan Daioleslam, editor of the English Iranian Lobby website “In Search of Truth: Reports on Mullahs’s lobby in US,” the defendant in a defamation suit brought by Trita Parsi and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Judge Bates also ordered sanctions against Parsi for failure to comply with the discovery phase of the litigation. […]
Trita Parsi sued Seid Hassan Daioleslam for defamation in April, 2008 after Mr. Dai’s investigative reporting exposed Parsi’s and NIAC’s deep and incontrovertible ties to high-level agents of the Iranian regime. The suit went through 53 months of litigation that included 24 months of discovery and over 30 court motions. These ultimately confirmed the accuracy of Mr. Dai’s investigative reports.
Even though that ruling occurred more than a year earlier, HuffPost disclosed none of these facts to its readers, and never updated its story to include any mention of the Algemeiner expose’. To the contrary, HuffPost continued allowing Parsi and others at the NIAC to write editorials (archive), which it positioned at or near the top of its front page, under the presumed auspices of being nonpartisan “Iran experts,” including the following lie-filled screeds:
To Netanyahu, Peace Is an Existential Threat (March 2, 2015)
The Summer of War or Peace With Iran (May 13, 2015)
HuffPost continued to enable and depict the NIAC as “nonpartisan experts,” even after they began overt fundraising to lobby Congress to advance the deal
September 1, 2015 brought an important victory for advocates of the Iran deal: they had secured the 34 Senators needed to block any resolution condemning it. In response, the NIAC’s president, Trita Parsi, published the following editorial at HuffPost:
Obama’s Real Achievement With the Iran Deal, by Trita Parsi, Huffington Post, September 1, 2015.
The very next day, September 2, 2015, Parsi sent out the following fundraising email, for the purpose of enabling it to pressure 7 more U.S. Senators to support the deal. Emphasis is added on certain passages, to highlight its clear lobbying objectives:
From: Trita Parsi [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 10:26 AM
Subject: We’ve hit 34 votes to seal the deal!
You did it! Thanks to you, we just took a giant leap forward in sealing the Iran deal!
Senator Mikulski (D-MD) will announce her support for the deal this morning, giving us the 34 Senate votes needed to protect the President’s veto of a resolution of disapproval of the Iran deal!
Barring the unforeseen, this historic victory means that the deal will officially withstand Congressional rejection.
But we can’t celebrate just yet.
We need 41 votes in the Senate to win the vote outright, preventing the President from having to resort to a veto. A deal protected merely by the President’s veto pen faces an uphill battle in future administrations. A different president can use the same pen to kill the deal.
We must be ready to double down our efforts on the remaining 7 Senators to ensure we seal this deal without a veto.
As we speak, AIPAC and Congressional hawks are working to implement new sanctions aimed at destroying the deal. Draft bill language circulating throughout Congress now shows a clear aim to kill the deal and pave the way for war. Opponents want to force the President to use his veto to diminish the credibility of the deal.
We must be ready to counter these diplomacy-killing efforts in the long-term.
This is not the time to sit back. This is the time to be counted.
Join our efforts to defend the deal in Congress by making a contribution online today!
Our goal is to raise $150,000 in the next few weeks to mobilize Americans of all walks of life to help secure the historic chance for peace we now have within our reach.
With your help, we can do it!
Board Member, NIAC Action
NIAC 1411 K St NW, Ste 250 Washington, DC 20005 USA
Help advance peace and the Iranian-American community. Contribute today.
Learn more about the NIAC
We’ve compiled an array of investigative exposes’ on the NIAC and related issues on our Resources page:
Addendum 1: HuffPost’s deception regarding the NIAC is part of a broader pattern of its enabling PR for the world’s most brutal Islamist regimes
HuffPost’s deception regarding the NIAC was not an isolated incident. Rather, it was part of its continuing pattern of its enabling paid PR spinmasters who represent some of the world’s most brutal Islamist regimes to help present favorable depictions of their clients. For example, the sleuths at The Shame Project revealed:
- “HuffPo has been caught pushing positive PR for foreign dictators. The New York Times reported that in 2009 HuffPo published a short article accompanied by a “fashion slide show” titled “Asma al-Assad: Syria’s First Lady and All-Natural Beauty” not long after the Assad family began using Western PR firms to “shape her image.” [Ed. Curiously, while HuffPost has allowed the write who published this “piece,” Nour Akkad to remain active, it scrubbed her archive to remove the listing for this item.]
- “During pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2011 at the start of the Arab Spring, HuffPo published a series of blog posts that whitewashed well-documented Bahraini police brutality, and instead blamed demonstrators for violence erupting in the country. HuffPo did not disclose that the author, Tom Squitieri, was “an employee of Qorvis Communications, a Washington firm that is registered to lobby for the government of Bahrain,” as Ken Silverstein discovered. Squitieri had been a reporter for USA Today until 2005, when he “resigned” over charges of plagiarism.”
Addendum 2: Ryan Grim publicly said HuffPost has an obligation to be “upfront and honest” with readers about the reality of those news figures it covers
As noted earlier, Ryan Grim, co-wrote the deceptive “Saboteur Senator” piece above, serves as HuffPost’s “Washington Bureau Chief.” In January 2016, Grim was asked by the Poynter Institute why HuffPost inserts the following statement into every “news” article it writes about Donald Trump, and whether doing so isn’t a betrayal of basic journalistic principles:
Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
Being fully upfront and honest with readers is a mark of our respect for their ability to think freely and for themselves. Withholding certain bits of information out of a fear that it will brainwash readers is the opposite.
Why every HuffPost article about Donald Trump calls him a liar, by By Benjamin Mullin, The Poynter Institute, January 29, 2016.
However, when it came to exposing the well-known reality of Trita Parsi and the NIAC, HuffPost still falsely depicts it as merely a “nonpartisan…. grassroots organization,” as shown in the screencap below, from June 27, 2016. And HuffPost still enables Trita Parsi and other members of this deceptive lobbying group for Iran’s mullahs to post diatribes on its front page, thus legitimizing it before its audience of 130 million readers.
(2) Enabling a discredited, convicted felon (pedophilia) to be depicted only as an “author” and “weapons inspector,” and to lie about opponents of the Iran deal
Throughout 2014 and 2015, HuffPost posted a series of editorials on its front page (sometimes at the very top) by Scott Ritter, that contained scathing attacks on critics of the Iran deal. HuffPost described Ritter only as an author and former weapons inspector (screencap):
Scott Ritter is a former Marine intelligence officer who served on the staff of General Norman Schwartzkopf during the Gulf War and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He has written several books on US policy, including his most recent, Dangerous Ground, published by Nation books.
In at least one case, HuffPost published a front-page editorial by Ritter that contained an outright lie (data here) – that Iran poses no nuclear threat to anyone:
Cutting the Gordian Knot, by Scott Ritter, Huffington Post, July 15, 2015.
“The debate that will take place in Congress… is long overdue, and one that can hopefully proceed in a responsible fashion now that the myth of an Iranian nuclear threat has been debunked.”
This was but one of a series of claims Ritter made that are either demonstrable falsehoods, or strain credulity.
Why would HuffPost publish lies about a matter as important as the Iran nuclear deal on its front page?
While that is a good question, a better one is: Why would HuffPost not inform its readers that Ritter is a discredited, convicted pedophile, who was arrested on multiple occasions for trying to solicit sex with children over the Internet, and who in 2011 was finally convicted and sentenced to five years in a prison?
Furthermore, Ritter’s credibility was demolished when he claimed, in court records, that in all instances he knew he was chatting with undercover police officers who were posing as children, but he tried to arrange sex with them because he wanted to get caught. Yet as the New York Times reported – in 2012, long before the “debate” over the Iran deal began – Ritter demonstrably lied, under oath (emphasis added):
When prosecutors were successful in moving to unseal his New York files and presented evidence from those arrests too, Ritter steadfastly maintained that he was aware, in both instances, that he was talking to undercover cops. He knew his online activities needed to be stopped, Ritter said, so he arranged to meet the officers involved, playing along with the notion that they were teenage girls, so that he could get himself arrested and be forced to face his demons. This would have been a more persuasive defense, perhaps, had one of the arresting detectives not testified that Ritter, upon seeing the police lying in wait for him, tried to evade capture by slamming down the gas pedal and jumping a curb, T.J. Hooker-style.
Here is the other picture of Ritter, from the New York Times in 2012, which HuffPost deceptively concealed from its readers for the next three years – while at the same time asserting that his views on the Iran deal and U.S. national security were so credible and timely, that they deserved to consistently be put on its front page: