A year ago, Tim Graham at NewsBusters noted that the New York Times was "offering 13-day tours of Iran guided by Times journalist Elaine Sciolino" at the bargain rate of $6,995 per person. Among other things, it promised "excellent insights into ... (the) life and accomplishments" of Ayatollah Khomeini, the ruthless Islamist leader who posed as a liberator, but then imposed a fundamentalist Islamic state after taking control of that country in the late 1970s. Those tours are still active, and popular.
Given that background, I suppose we really shouldn't be all that surprised that Ira Stoller at SmarterTimes.com reported a related development this morning. With the imminent lifting of Western sanctions against Iran, the ever-opportunistic International division of the Times is cohosting an October 6-7 "Oil and Money" conference in London (I promise, I'm not making this up).
There, among other things, industry decisionmakers can schmooze with "H.E. Seyed Mehdi Hosseini, chairman of the Oil Contract Restructuring Committee at the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum."
For months, the Times has presented slanted reporting and relentlessly editorialized in favor of what Times staffer Brenda Erdmann Hagerty calls "the historic nuclear deal between Iran and world powers" in an email to potential attendees. Now it is capitalizing on the deal it advocated.
Is it really possible that no one at the Times sees, or at least cares about, how such a blatant conflict of interest seriously and permanently damages any claim they might have objectivity in this matter?
The SmarterTimes.com report has much, much more (links are in original; bolds are mine):
... Admission to the conference and to a "Petroleum Executive of the Year" dinner honoring ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson costs $4,091 including tax at current exchange rates, though the Times is offering some promotional codes beginning with "INYT," for International New York Times. The conference venue is the InterContinental Park Lane London, which conference organizers tout as "the epitome of modern elegance."
... The news that the Times is selling $4,000 tickets for face time with Iranian oil decision makers at a fancy London hotel is likely to trigger criticism at a moment when a reporter of the Washington Post, Jason Rezaian, is languishing in a Tehran prison where conditions are known to be considerably harsher than at the Park Lane. Even advocates of the Iranian nuclear deal such as President Obama have acknowledged the "likelihood" that Tehran will use some of its post-sanctions-relief revenue to fund terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and regional military adventurism. The Iranian government remains on the State Department's list of sponsors of terrorism and its human rights abuses are well documented, as are its anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and assistance to forces that killed American troops in Iraq.
... Journalistic ethics watchdogs have yet to weigh in on the propriety of the Times plan to sell access to an Iranian oil official so soon after it has been editorializing in favor of President Obama's effort to bring Iran sanctions relief. Critics of Iran or of the oil industry, which has been targeted for divestment by campus climate-change activists, also have yet to weigh in.
The one conference session that focuses on geopolitics includes as a panelist Alastair Crooke, whose conference bio touts that he has "has 20 years of experience working with Islamist movements, particularly Hamas and Hezbollah as well as other Islamist movements in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East." A 2009 profile of Mr. Crooke in Mother Jones spoke of "the weirdness of Crooke's embrace of even the looniest doctrines of the Iranian ruling clique."
Major Garrett, who famously asked President Obama why American hostages weren't freed as part of the deal, now has at least a partial answer as to why the blowback from some of his fellow journalists was so fierce. Questions such as his threaten to disrupt the gravy train.
Given that "Iran has been at war with the 'Great Satan' (USA) since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979," the Times's move (with the help of cohosts, sponsors and attendees) can — and should — be seen as dangerously similar to setting up a conference with representatives of Nazi Germany a month after its troops invaded Poland. Of course, in October 1939, no one was that craven and stupid. Too bad that's not the case today.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.