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FishForLunch
05-18-2005, 02:12 PM
After retraction, Newsweek's Isikoff says he'll continue to investigate Quran controversy
Everyday Hero
BY JAMES T. MADORE
STAFF WRITER

May 18, 2005

A day after Newsweek retracted his story about U.S. interrogators defiling a Quran, reporter Michael Isikoff vowed to continue digging into the controversy.

"We are continuing to investigate what remains a very murky situation," the prize-winning journalist told Newsday. "It's not like us or them [the Pentagon] have gotten to the bottom of this."

Isikoff and Newsweek have been pilloried in the past few days by the Bush administration for allegedly endangering U.S. troops abroad and helping fan anti-U.S. riots that left at least 15 people dead.

The article in the May 9 edition included a charge that U.S. personnel flushed a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy text, down a toilet at the detention center for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Things turned out horribly, but it was unforeseen," Isikoff said, referring to the protests. "A very strange set of circumstances led to a very horrible chain of events. And we all feel terrible about it."

Isikoff, who grew up in Syosset and turns 53 next month, is no stranger to controversy, including brickbats from the White House. His reporting on the sexual relationship between then-President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to impeachment hearings. In taped testimony released in 1998, Clinton angrily blamed Isikoff and Newsweek for fueling the sex-related charges against him.

The Lewinsky scandal and criticism by Clinton supporters taught Isikoff to stay focused on his work. "All things do pass," he said yesterday. "Just don't get hung up, just plow ahead, forge ahead and do your job."

Newsweek officials have said Isikoff and national security correspondent John Barry, who co-authored the 320-word story about abuses by U.S. interrogators, will not be disciplined. Isikoff said, "I believe Newsweek has been clear up the line that they don't see any evidence that anybody, much less me, did anything wrong."

Isikoff defended his reporting, saying his unnamed source had been reliable in the past. In this instance, the reporter said, the source only was incorrect about which document he read detailing the Quran defilement. Isikoff also said a top Pentagon official didn't dispute the Quran charge when he was shown the story before publication.

"If it was wrong, why didn't you [Pentagon officials] demand a correction right away?" Isikoff said. "... They didn't say a word until 11 days after the piece ran, when rioting had begun."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman disputed the timing of his department's response to the Newsweek story, saying, "When does it become our responsibility to correct every wrong report out there?"

He added, "Here's a reporter who is trying to deflect blame for a story that was not only thinly sourced, but wrong."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called on Newsweek to go a step beyond its retraction: "Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report."