Daily Beast’s Rogin and Journalistic Triage on O’Bagy

As we wrote yesterday, when it comes to the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, he seems to write on subjects that are damaging to the left but he often does so when the horse is out of the barn. This can do two things. First, like journalistic triage, it provides damage control with nuanced spin on stories that are already – or will be – damaging to individuals or groups on the left – like identifying the Accountability Review Board as the Administrative Review Board. Second, it affords the writer – in this case, Rogin – to convey a higher degree of objectivity.

Rogin: Attempting to soften O'Bagy's crash landing?

Rogin: Attempting to soften O’Bagy’s crash landing?

Rogin’s latest foray involves what appears to be his attempt to soften the crash-landing of Elizabeth O’Bagy, now a former political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. Last week, O’Bagy was fired from the Institute on the Study of War (ISW) for claiming she had a Ph.D. when she had only obtained a Masters Degree.

This is but one red flag with O’Bagy but it is the one Rogin focuses on while attempting to both diminish her misdeed and generate sympathy for her:

“I would like to deeply apologize to every person with whom I have worked, who has read and depended upon my research, and to the general public,” O’Bagy said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “While I have made many mistakes and showed extremely poor judgment, I most particularly regret my public misrepresentation of my educational status and not immediately disclosing that I had not been awarded a doctorate in May, 2013.”

The controversy surrounding O’Bagy first began after she published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Aug. 30 that included her affiliation with ISW but did not mention her work with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit organization that works directly with the Syrian opposition as well as with the State Department. Some reports accused the Journal and O’Bagy of hiding her work with the Syrian rebels, despite that she had been identified as a staff member of SETF in several articles. {emphasis ours}

Journalistic triage.

Rogin then goes in to the reason for her departure from SETF. What he doesn’t touch, however, is the fact that two of O’Bagy’s colleagues – Ahmad Soliman and Cassie Chesley – both left shortly before O’Bagy did but after the controversy about her erupted. Rogin also quotes the only member remaining on the SETF staff, Mouaz Moustafa:

The Task Force initially waited to make any judgment about O’Bagy, but asked for her resignation on Monday after conducting their own internal investigation.

“The Syrian Emergency Task Force announced officially today that Elizabeth O’Bagy is no longer working with the organization,” the group’s executive director Mouaz Moustafa told The Daily Beast in a statement Monday. “Although the SETF deeply regrets the poor judgment exercised by Ms. O’Bagy in misstating her credentials, we stand by her research on the realities on the ground in Syria. The mission of the Syrian Emergency Task Force is to educate the American public and policy makers on the Syrian crisis and to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrians in need.”

So, Mr. Rogin, no journalistic curiosity to go with that triage? What happened to Soliman and Chesley?

Instead, Rogin focuses on how apologetic O’Bagy is while also diminishing the offense:

O’Bagy apologized to SETF in her Monday statement to The Daily Beast. O’Bagy also noted that she has disclosed her two affiliations, with ISW and SETF, several times.

Rogin is obviously attempting to soften O’Bagy’s crash landing. Why is he ignoring SETF’s background? That’s the bigger story.

The O’Bagy saga began as a matter of conflict of interest. Senator John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry both cited her work in an attempt to bolster their case for attacking Syria. Her work with SETF torpedoed her credibility as an objective source. Everything started falling apart from there.

That leads to a potential conflict of interest for Rogin. Note in the aforementioned article, he quoted the SETF’s lone, remaining staff member, Executive Director Mouaz Moustafa.

Screenshot of Rogin from US-IWF Forum Participant list.

Screenshot of Rogin from US-IWF Forum Participant list.

Screenshot of Moustafa at the US-IWF Participant list.

Screenshot of Moustafa at the US-IWF Participant list.

Why was Rogin in attendance with Mouaz Moustafa at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar this past June? There were extremely prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in attendance there as well (CAIR’s Nihad Awad and ISNA’s Mohamed Magid to name just a couple). Qatar is a hotbed for the Muslim Brotherhood and is a staunch supporter of Syria’s rebels. A quick search of Rogin’s writings seems to indicate his support for the rebels as well.

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When reporting on McCain’s trip to Syria this past May, Rogin very much told a one-sided story, even quoting Moustafa and O’Bagy, who both accompanied McCain on the trip.

This means that approximately two weeks before the US-IWF, Rogin quoted Moustafa for his article. Did they rub elbows in Doha about what appears to be a common interest?

Perhaps instead of trying to diffuse O’Bagy’s conflict of interest, Mr. Rogin should start revealing any he might have.


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