The Knives are Out for Nir Rosen

Journalist Nir Rosen has become the latest target of a right-wing feeding frenzy, losing his fellowship at NYU after tweeting a tasteless comment about the sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Egypt. The usual suspects have moved in, led by Jeffrey Goldberg (who rather disingenuously pretended not even to know who Rosen was).

Unlike some of the previous smear campaigns by the neocon right, in this case it’s hard to dispute that Rosen did wrong. His tweet was genuinely offensive, and he’s rightly (and repeatedly) apologized for it. It was also an unforced error, giving an opening to those critics who for a long time had clearly despised Rosen for his politics but were hesitant to criticize him because of his reporting chops.

For all that, though, it would be a shame if Rosen’s attackers succeeded in driving him out of the conversation. Whatever his flaws, it’s hard to think of an American war reporter of his generation who could replace him. Rosen has been virtually unique among American journalists in reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan unembedded — or embedded with insurgents — giving his reporting a depth and perspective that is virtually impossible to find elsewhere in the US media. (For more, see Ali Gharib’s excellent profile of Rosen from last year.) The contrast with most of his critics — whose idea of reporting consists mostly of relaying anonymous quotes from White House officials and working the crowd at Herzliya — is striking.

So I, at least, will be hoping that Rosen makes it through the current firestorm. (And learns to exercise a bit more self-censorship!) Our understanding of America’s wars would be much poorer without him.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. Why in God’s name would anyone say something like that in reference to the rape of a reporter? Where’s the sensitivity? Where’s the judgement?

  2. I think Rosen raises a fair question, “what is meant by sexual assault?” We know she was groped, what else? I understand that may be too sensitive to publicly address, but then perhaps we shouldn’t conclude too much either. Do we know who did the assault? We know some were attacking journalists anyway. Is the nature of this different than the sexual assault TE Lawrence endured?

    On a simpler level, what is rape? I don’t think trying to be pushy is rape. There seems a difference between not taking no, or worse, a hint and punching a woman in the face till she quits resisting. So, we’ve equivocated a term to the point that no one knows what we are talking about.

    Mr. Rosen might be right, that she was (severely) groped. I’ve had my ears torn and seen similar consequences from rugby–I could imagine groping resulting in similar tears. I’ve had a nipple nearly torn off too from our rough Texas pitches.

  3. I understand Ms. Logan has been undergoing hospital treatment. You don’t get admitted to the hospital as a result of being groped.

    Getting hurt in an athletic contest (which has happened to me) is in no way comparable to being sexually assaulted.

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