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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spitzer Spin?

I know I'm late to the party, as so many J-bloggers are already on this story. Check out Krum's posts (I, II, III), SIW's (I, II, III), and TTC's both at his place (I, II), and at Jewschool (I). But I do have a few little points of my own to add on the topic of the closing of the OAG's investigation of the World Jewish Congress.

OK. So I read the blogs last night, immediately after the AG's office releases the report, and I see that everyone feels that the WJC was completely exonerated of any real wrongdoing. Interesting. Then I read the mainstream media reports this morning, and see a completely different spin on the report. How exactly is that? The answer lies right here. If one reads solely the press release issued by the AG's office, one would get a completely different picture of the actual findings than if one would actually peruse the report (which I did - it can be downloaded here, and it isn't long). As a matter of fact, as Krum points out, the numbers in the press release do not even compute with the numbers in the body of the report!

There are two issues at play here. First, the complete irresponsibilty of the OAG in publishing a press release that does not reflect the findings of this year-long inquiry. The press release mischaracterizes the report - which finds (and stresses throughout its body) that there is no intentional wrongdoing on the part of anyone at the WJC. Then can someone please tell me where the press office gets its facts from? Is this willful? Did someone in the press office neglect to read the report, as Krum jokes? Unclear. But unfair, for certain.

The bigger point here is the complete laziness of the press in reporting this story. Again, Can someone please explain to me how every single news agency that picked this story up quoted directly from the press release, without delving deeper into the text of the report? Somehow, these guys, who do this for a living, can't find the time to do a little more research, while the bloggers, who usually do this as a pasttime, all managed to at least skim the report, and conclude that, as the report states more than once, the investigation uncovered no basis to conclude that the organization was harmed by the inadequate financial controls it practiced. I guess who would expect J-journalists to actually tax their brain by reading 38 double-spaced pages?

The picture the report paints is that of an organization that was not financially modern, but not of one that was attempting to defraud any of its donors or members. But the press seems to get that wrong, somehow. I guess sensationalism sells, but at what price? Of course, I can't resist the fun of taking a few potshots at the doyen of bad Jewish reporting, my friend Gary Rosenblatt. The guy can't actually admit that the report found nothing sexy in terms of wrongdoing, as he's been doing such a shoddy and biased job of reportage on this topic sice the outset (my previous posts on the subject here and here). So, in a classic Rosenblatt move, he puts up a piece chock-full of the same innuendo and anonymous quotes as usual, and of course, the same "facts" from the press release figure prominently into his story. He also mentions very casually that the "slush fund" that he wrote about so sensationally (and unethically - see here), was not found to exist by the OAG.
The London Jewish Chronicle published a story in November saying that Herbits was “considering legal action” against The Jewish Week for publishing an article about the Spitzer investigation dealing with allegations of a “slush fund” of about $2 million provided for Singer by Bronfman.

The attorney general’s report found no evidence of such a fund.
Is anyone besides me just loving the way Rosenblatt quotes the Chronicle's allegations of the "slush fund" - as if he had never published his own stories in the Jewish Week that treated the unfounded allegations of such a fund as fact?

But even Gary can't get around publishing the most important conclusion that the AG's office reached:
The attorney general’s report focused on “deficiencies” in governance and fiscal controls, though it found no criminal conduct and said the “shortcomings did not compromise the core mission” of the group or result in “other identifiable losses of charitable assets.”
Well, I can say this: I, for one, am glad to see a case involving Jewish and Orthodox Jewish subjects ending with no finding of any intentional wrongdoing. It's about time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roenblatt does that as if to quote the London paper as the only credible source for the false allegations he reported about based soley on an email from his own editor, now pretends the article never eaven existed.
So much for crediblity.

8:04 PM  
Blogger and so it shall be... said...

The JW plays like an aging rock star desperately and pathetically struggling to recreate the misunderstood magic of a one-hit wonder of decades past.

Their one monster hit called "Burn Lanner Burn" may have been played big, but in the long run, is hardly proof of the paper's journalistic prowess, but more likely a providential fluke called "being in the right place at the right time."

8:19 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

LOL. Great comment. Love it.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats really funny about this week's jewish week is rosenblatt's editorial, where he calls for the WJC to withdraw its lawsuit against leibler. He ties his call to the assumption that leibler was right all along, forgetting the fact that 95% of leibler's innuendo was found in spitzer's report to be pure malicious slander - and the greatest irony is that rosenblatt perpetuated that slander by printing leibler's accusations(the nonexistent slush fund just to name one "fact") - if the WJC had real balls, theyd actually go after rosenblatt with their suit and do the jewish community a big favor by putting his mom and pop operation out of business for good. It takes chutzpa that only a journalist could muster to call for mea culpas for everyone's mistake but ones own.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the forward got this story right! it's article this week actually bothered to read the report instead of the press release.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the alleged disbursements are for things that most people prob wouldnt even think were a problem. who doesnt take car leases as an expense? and dont most businesses pay for employees families insurance? And i know (but will clearly remain anonymous after admitting to this) that myself and every other partner in my firm uses our accrued miles from business travel for personal travel. that is certainly not a definitively problematic disbursement. a gov't investigation is a lot of scrutiny to withstand and come up with this alone. i dont wish this kind of investigation on anyone i know, as theyd all be repaying the inappropriate disbursements for a long time to come. no?

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely right. Pretty impressive that this is all they came up with after that kind of intense scrutiny. Mismanagement and poor record keeping are FAR from the accusations that were being thrown.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Maybe Liebler and Rosenblatt siphoned out of the WJC their own slush fund, and tried to cover it up by attacking Singer?

8:26 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

SW- I crown you king of the apt metaphore.

Innocence doesn't sell apparently.
So much for journalistic integrity.

7:56 PM  
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