Wednesday, May 12, 2004

CHUCK TURNER, IRAQI RAPE ALLEGATIONS, AND THE GLOBE. The right-wing website is having a wicked good time over an apparent fraud perpetrated on (by?) Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and African-American activist Sadiki Kambon, and reported in today's Boston Globe.

At a City Hall news conference yesterday morning, Turner and Kambon showed photos that they claimed depicted American soldiers raping Iraqi women. "The American people have a right and responsibility to see the pictures," Turner was quoted as saying.

Today, Sherrie Gossett writes in that the photos are identical to pictures "taken from pornographic websites and disseminated by anti-American propagandists," a story that she's been reporting on in recent days.

Gossett also writes that today's Globe "came complete with graphic photos" of the alleged gang rape. But that's not quite right. The Globe story, by Donovan Slack, is accompanied by a photo by George Rizer of Turner and Kambon displaying four of the pictures for the benefit of journalists who'd come to the news conference. The pictures look like they might be graphic, but it's hard to tell given the size and the angle. Still, I'm sure Globe editors wish they hadn't run Rizer's photo.

Gossett includes some extremely entertaining quotes from Slack:

Asked whether the photos were the same as the porn photos WND already investigated, reporter Donovan Slack said, "I have no idea. I'm surprised the editor even decided we should write about it."

She added: "Oh my God, I'm scared to answer the phone today."

"It's insane," said Slack. "Can you imagine getting this with your cup of coffee in the morning? Somehow it got through all our checks. Our publisher's not having a very good day today."

Slack sent the photos to WND, which immediately confirmed they were the same porn photos reported on last week.

Slack quipped, "I'll be working at Penthouse soon."

The photos aside, Slack's story sounds all the right notes of skepticism. She quotes a spokesman for the Defense Department as saying, "I would caution that there are many fake photos circulating on the Internet." She also notes that the Nation of Islam, which purportedly supplied the photos to Kambon, would not verify their authenticity. Turner told reporters, "We cannot document their authenticity. But you have the ability to do that."

Nor did the Globe give this story a lot of play. It's a short piece on page B2, beneath the bland headline "Councilor Takes Up Iraq Issue." The subhead, "Turner Releases Purported Images of Rape by Soldiers," reinforces the notion that the story is about a city councilor speaking out more than it is about the subject of his outrage.

Now, I'm sure the Globe will be publishing some sort of statement, maybe as early as tomorrow. But the person who really has something to answer for is Chuck Turner. Kambon is Kambon. No one would take seriously the notion that photos of Iraqis being abused by American soldiers would somehow fall into his hands.

But Turner is a prominent elected official who lent both his good name and the imprimatur of City Hall to this fiasco. Without Turner, this story never would have been reported.

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