In reporting on apparent foreign influence within the president’s circles, The New York Times has raised questions about foreign influence inside of its own newsroom.
Last week, the Times published a highly-publicized “scoop” on the supposed nefarious activities of Trump fundraiser and GOP mega donor Elliot Broidy, creating a narrative that accused the venture capitalist of improperly using his connections to the president to score major contracts for his work with the United Arab Emirates, among other countries.
Writers Ken Vogel, David Kirkpatrick, and Declan Walsh, who reported the piece, claimed to have exclusive access to private documents and emails that show evidence of improper behavior. They did not reveal how they got access to all of the private documents, particularly his personal communications.
Last year, Broidy sued the nation of Qatar, alleging that hackers working for the Qatari government stole emails and other communications from him. Some of the stolen documents have surfaced in a variety of media outlets, with many focusing on his relationship with Qatar’s regional rivals, such as Israel and other U.S. Gulf allies.
In response to The Times piece, Broidy’s team alleged that the stolen documents were “altered and cherry-picked out of context to present a false narrative about his business activities and public educational efforts that were entirely legitimate and legal.” The Times does not present the documents in their original form, so it’s not possible for the reader to decide whether or not they are authentic or providing an accurate and complete summary.
The Times also does not tell its readers that all three of the reporters on the byline of the story had earlier this year been contacted by foreign agents for the government of Qatar about the very topics that they all happen to be reporting on together.
According to March 2019 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings, Vogel, Kirkpatrick, and Walsh, the three reporters on the story, were contacted by foreign lobbyists for Qatar specifically about the Broidy case. Of course, this does not provide definitive proof that Vogel and his colleagues got their scoop directly from Qatar. But their lack of transparency about their private communications with elements of the regime should certainly raise eyebrows about the objectivity and neutrality of their reporting.
I asked Kenneth Vogel, the first reporter on the byline of the story, to comment on The Times reporters’ unreported communications with Qatar. He did not respond. Vogel has a history of biased reporting. He once infamously submitted a draft of a story to the DNC before publishing it with his former employer. David Kirkpatrick, another reporter on the Broidy story, has a long history of cozying up to Qatar and providing fodder for the Islamist organizations it funds and supports, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
At a bare minimum, The Times owes it to its readers to acknowledge that lobbyists for Qatar were communicating with Times reporters about the man upon whom the Times now reports. To not include that in their report adds to suspicions that Qatar — which again, is accused of hacking Broidy — may have been the source for their “scoop” on his personal and professional dealings.
The nation’s “paper of record” has a demonstrated track record of extreme hostility to the president and to our critical allies in the Middle East. The hit piece on Broidy, which is a combined assault on the president and our Gulf allies, seems to benefit both of those goals.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was enacted in 1938 — just three years prior to the U.S. entry into World War II — with the goal to hold individuals and companies accountable for working for the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Today, the FARA system provides a database of individuals and organizations that lobby on behalf of foreign nations, regardless of whether they are allies or adversaries. Today, FARA is to thank for holding biased journalists accountable, too.
Jordan Schachtel is a foreign policy analyst and investigative reporter.