Published on August 5th, 2011 | by Daniel Luban4
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin Problem
To follow up on Ali’s thorough post detailing Jennifer Rubin’s continuing problems with the truth, it’s worth taking a step back from the concrete details of the story for a moment. Rubin’s latest fibs — in which she mistakenly blamed Islamic militants for the July 22 massacre in Norway, failed to correct her mistake when word of the real perpetrator’s identity leaked, then falsely claimed that she had been unable to update her post because she was celebrating Shabbat — are actually the second scandal she’s been involved with during her brief time at the Washington Post.
In June, Rubin falsely suggested that the Obama administration was abandoning past Quartet policy by pressuring the Israeli government to negotiate without preconditions with Hamas. Rubin cited as evidence a conference call that administration official Steve Simon held with American Jewish leaders; unfortunately, she misrepresented the contents of the conference call so brazenly that JTA’s Ron Kampeas stepped in to call her out on her deceptions. It’s worth noting that the Breivik dustup marks the second time that Kampeas — a veteran journalist with strong connections to the American Jewish establishment who is anything but a radical leftist — has flatly accused Rubin of dishonesty.
But these scandals are, more than anything, predictable. When the Post first hired Rubin last fall, I noted that she seemed to have been brought on board purely as a sop to the right, despite the fact that she had almost no actual reporting experience and seemed to view her job as a form of PR rather than journalism. In defending the Rubin hire, Post editors suggested that she was intended to balance liberal-leaning journalist Greg Sargent. But as I wrote, this logic was highly revealing of the problems with the mainstream media’s conception of “balance”:
Sargent certainly leans liberal, but he is also a very good reporter who breaks stories and is willing to criticize the Democrats; Rubin, by contrast, has no real experience as a reporter (as opposed to commentator) and has never met a Republican or Likud talking point she didn’t like.
To take only one recent example, Sargent recently wrote a widely-read piece describing the recent debt-ceiling deal as a “huge, unprecedented political victory” for the Republicans. Read his post, and ask yourself if you can ever, under any circumstances, imagine Rubin describing any event as a “huge, unprecedented political victory” for Obama or the Democrats. On the contrary, for Rubin every event marks a glorious triumph for the Republicans and a crushing defeat for Obama; she has rapidly supplanted the Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes as the most comically in-the-tank Republican flack.
Since Rubin has amply demonstrated that she views her Post gig as a means to advance Republican and Likud political goals rather than an opportunity to do actual journalism, almost inevitably it’s only a matter of time before she gets in hot water for fudging the truth once again. The only real question is how long her Post higher-ups will be willing to put up with it. Despite its rapid decline in recent years, the Post still has many distinguished journalists on staff, and one has to imagine that they are rapidly growing tired of having to apologize for their honesty-challenged colleague.