Photo Credit: Facebook, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, composition
Former AP reporter Matti Friedman (upper left), AP director of media relations Paul Colford (upper right), former AP reporter Mark Lavie (lower left), former AP Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Gutnik (lower right)

Colford wasn’t pleased. He wanted contact information right away for the reporter. In his third email to the New York editor of  The Jewish Press in as many hours, Colford seemed to lose his cool:

How can I reach Lori Lowenthal Marcus? Who can provide her email address? It is unfair that she can criticize AP on your site, but AP is unable to respond because her email eludes us.

Really? The director of media relations for an international media conglomerate spent hours hunting down a reporter at a (relatively speaking) small news outlet and he is the underdog? And The Jewish Press is being unfair because it isn’t divulging private contact information for one of its reporters just because someone is stamping his foot demanding it?

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Hmmm. Where else have we seen the underdog portrayed as the big bully and the well-fed recipient of resources from all over the globe described as the victim?

It gets worse.

By the time this reporter obtained Colford’s contact information and reached out to him, the AP had already posted a statement. Colford sent a link to the statement, explaining that he has “addressed the falsehoods” in Friedman’s Atlantic article, including his “bogus claim about AP and Prof. Gerald Steinberg that you have singled out in your article.”

Colford’s statement on behalf of AP starts out criticizing Friedman, then applauds its reporters for heroic work in a dangerous region (specifically mentioning, not incidentally, that “Hamas intimidation” of reporters is one of the obstacles its reporters have to deal with in covering the Gaza war(s).) He then returns to critiquing Friedman’s AP criticisms, by ticking off several specifics.

The Jewish Press had focused on what it saw as Friedman’s two new and factual assertions in The Atlantic: the ban on Steinberg and NGO-Monitor, and the spiking of a story Friedman wrote which focused on human rights organizations’ outsized ability to condemn Israel and use the media as their messengers.

AP’s Colford stated, unequivocally: “There was no ‘ban’ on using Prof. Gerald Steinberg. He and his NGO Monitor group are cited in at least a half-dozen stories since the 2009 Gaza war.”

Within an hour, Colford sent another email (now we’re at four), asking whether The Jewish Press was going to run his AP statement, noting that “I don’t see it there at present.”

That is because we had some questions for Colford. Imagine that. We did not just run AP’s statement without doing any due diligence. True, he represents the AP, but for the single point from our article which his statement addressed, we were not yet satisfied his response was, well, responsive.

For one, we found it curious that although our story focused on what we understood to be a ban on Steinberg and NGO-Monitor regarding human rights organizations’ criticisms of Israel with respect to the winter ’08-’09 Cast Lead conflict, Colford specifically said the AP has cited them “at least a half-dozen” times since that conflict.

The Cast Lead conflict ended in January, 2009. That a media source with a large Jerusalem bureau which provides enormous coverage of every conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbors could only point to a handful of stories citing Steinberg and NGO-Monitor in the past nearly six years struck us as odd. What’s more, he had not limited his handful of stories to the Jerusalem bureau. That means even fewer relevant stories cited the NGO watchdogs.

Finally, Colford was wrong that our story only mentioned what Friedman referred to as a ban on Steinberg and his group.

Our article also mentioned Friedman’s claim that an AP editor refused to run a story he wrote about the contentious relationship between Israel and human rights organizations critical of the Jewish State. There was no mention of that in Colford’s statement, and he had told Jewish Press editors that there were “inaccuracies” in our article. Was this the basis of another alleged inaccuracy?

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com