The Conversation

Dana Milbank Blows It Again

Yesterday Dana Milbank wrote a column claiming a Heritage panel on Benghazi had devolved into "ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering." This being Dana Milbank it was inevitable there would be serious problems with his reporting of the event.

Sure enough when Media Matters posted video of the panel (in an attempt to back up Milbank's claim), it turned out the actual exchange had little in common with the one described in Milbank's column. Here's what Milbank wrote:

Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she told them. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”

Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said “180 million to 300 million” Muslims are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” She told Ahmed that the “peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.”

Again, that's not how it happened. Milbank conveniently left out the calm, reasonable answer by Frank Gaffney and the fact that Brigitte Gabriel thanked Ahmed for her question. He then butchered Gabriel's response, turning a reasonable point about he disproportionate impact of violent extremists into a violation of Godwin's Law. He also forgot to mention the applause at the end of the exchange which seemed to include Ahmed's response. In short, Milbank turned a respectful if passionate discussion into something else entirely.

This is not the first time Milbank has made a claim about conservatives which has been found wanting. Back in 2010 I wrote a letter to the Post's ombudsman asking them to issue a correction for another misleading column. Once again Milbank had left out critical information that would alter the reader's impression. The ombudsman forwarded my letter to Milbank but no correction was ever issued despite undeniable factual errors in the piece.

Milbank was criticized by Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly after another misleading column in which he claimed, using the same broken quotes he used in the Heritage piece, that after Barney Frank was re-elected Megyn Kelly commented, "Alas." Full stop. As if she were lamenting his election. That was not true but once again no correction was ever made to Milbank's piece. Here is Kelly describing what she actually said.

That Milbank is once again doing shoddy work in order to generate negative headline about conservatives is not exactly a surprise at this point. What is surprising is that someone outside the right noticed. Politico's Dylan Byers deserves credit for pointing out that Milbank's take on the panel was a "disaster." It would have been nice if someone had said so four years ago in one of these previous instances, but better late than never.


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