On May 26, 2004, the New York Times issued an apology for its coverage of Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction. The Times had failed to provide what most readers expect from the US newspaper of record: journalistic accuracy and integrity about important matters of US foreign policy.
But the Times’ coverage of Iraq was worse than they were willing to concede. In fact, for at least the past fifty years the editorial policy of the Times—from its coverage of the 1954 Geneva Accords on Vietnam to the issue of torture in Abu Ghraib—has failed to incorporate international law into its coverage of US foreign policy. This lapse, as the authors demonstrate, has profound implications for the quality of the Times’ journalism and the function of the press in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law.
In this meticulously researched study, Howard Friel and Richard Falk reveal how the Times has consistently misreported major US foreign policy issues, including the bombing of North Vietnam in response to the Tonkin Gulf and Pleiku incidents in 1964-65, the Reagan administration’s policy toward the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, the 2002 military coup that briefly overthrew Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s elected president, and the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.