The Washington Post — which erroneously claimed in early April 2003 that Lynch had fought fiercely despite being shot and stabbed in the ambush of her unit — mistakenly described in a blog post yesterday the circumstances of Lynch’s subsequent rescue from captivity.
Lynch was a supply clerk in the 507th Maintenance Company, which was attacked in Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003. Lynch, who never fired a shot in the ambush, was severely injured in the crash of a Humvee as she and four colleagues tried to escape. She was neither shot nor stabbed.
She was taken prisoner and held nine days at an Iraqi hospital before being rescued by a U.S. special operations team on April 1, 2003.
Two days later, the Post published its bogus, front-page report about Lynch’s purported derring-do on the battlefield, a story that cited otherwise anonymous “U.S. officials” and appeared beneath the headline:
Yesterday, the Post’s “Checkpoint” Web log erred in asserting that Lynch was one of several U.S. soldiers “held in captivity for 22 days before being rescued by Marines.” Lynch was not among those prisoners and her rescuers were special operations forces.
The “Checkpoint” post focused on about a talk given at a conference in San Antonio by Shoshana Johnson, who was shot in the ankles in the Nasiriyah ambush and also taken prisoner. Her rescue from captivity came more than a week after the operation that freed Lynch.
Conflating the cases of Lynch and Johnson obviously is not an error as significant as the Post’s report of April 3, 2003, which said Lynch “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting” at Nasiriyah.
Still, the erroneous “Checkpoint” report is sloppy, and signals continued inattention to detail about the Lynch case.
One might think, given the embarrassment of the botched “fighting to the death” story, that Post reporters would be especially mindful about the details of the Lynch case.
And yet, the “Checkpoint” writeup wasn’t the first time in recent years that the newspaper has erred in referring to Lynch.
The Post invoked the Lynch case in 2010, in a movie review that disingenuously blamed the Pentagon for the bogus tale about Lynch’s heroics. Nearly seven weeks later, the newspaper published a belated and awkwardly worded correction about the review’s erroneous passage.
It is worth noting that the Post has never fully accounted for its botched hero-warrior story in 2003. It has never disclosed the identities of the anonymous sources who provided the salient details for a story so electrifying that was picked up by news organizations around the world.
The Post’s unwillingness to identify its sources contributed to the tenacity of a toxic narrative that the Pentagon concocted the story and somehow fed it to the Post in a crude attempt to boost U.S. public support for the war.
As I discuss in my media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong, Vernon Loeb, who shared a byline on the Post’s hero-warrior story about Lynch, has said unequivocally that the anonymous sources were not Pentagon officials.
“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”
Loeb, who then covered the military for the Post, made clear he “could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about” the Lynch case.
“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch,” Loeb said, adding:
“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none. I mean … they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”
If not Pentagon sources, then who were they? It’s well past time for the Post to identify them.
More from Media Myth Alert:
- Why WaPo should identify sources on bogus Jessica Lynch tale
- Maddow wrongly declares Pentagon ‘made up’ bogus tale about Jessica Lynch’s battlefield heroics
- Jon Krakauer rolls back claims about WaPo ‘source’ in Jessica Lynch case
- Lynch heroics not ‘the Pentagon’s story’; it was WaPo’s
- Washington Post ignores its singular role in Lynch hero-warrior story
- WaPo eludes responsibility in bogus hero-warrior tale about Lynch
- Recalling the hero of Nasiriyah: It wasn’t Jessica Lynch
- False narrative about Jessica Lynch and Pentagon surfaces anew
- WaPo, Bezos, and owning up to errors ‘quickly and completely’
- Marking five years: The best of Media Myth Alert
- Five years on: The best of Media Myth Alert, Part II
- Taking stock: Top mythbusting posts of 2014