November 27, 2007

Journalistic Malpractice At The Christian Science Monitor

Yesterday, Mansoor Ijaz stirred up controversy by claiming that Mitt Romney was an anti-Muslim bigot after supposedly refusing to consider Muslims for Cabinet positions. Romney, while not specifically denying the quote, told CNN that he didn't want to use religious affiliations as credentials for any presidential appointments:

Governor Romney: "… But I also think that suggesting that we have to fill spots based on checking off boxes of various ethnic groups is really a very inappropriate way to think about how we staff positions. I'm very pleased that, among my Cabinet members, for instance, I had several African-American individuals. I had people of different backgrounds. But I don't go in every circumstance I'm in and say, OK, how many African-Americans, how many Hispanic-Americans, how many Asian-Americans, and fill boxes that way. I fill responsibilities based upon people's merit and their skill. And, sometimes, it includes many ethnic minorities. And, other times, it includes different minorities. But I'm very pleased with my record."

This would have been the better response to Ijaz's request, as reported by Ijaz. Can we trust Ijaz? As it turns out, Ijaz left a few items out of his resume in the Christian Science Monitor in yesterday's essay. In 1997, the Washington Post reported Ijaz's involvement in presidential politics -- for the Democrats:

Mansoor Ijaz, a 35-year-old businessman, was precisely the kind of political activist the White House was seeking last year to help finance President Clinton's reelection campaign.

Wealthy and well-connected, Ijaz was more than willing to pitch in. By Election Day in November, he had raised $525,000 for the Democratic cause, including $250,000 from his personal funds and $200,000 donated by guests at a fund-raising reception for Vice President Gore at Ijaz's New York penthouse in September, according to Federal Election Commission records, White House documents and Ijaz.

Now Ijaz is trying to reap what he has sown. Having earned access to the Clinton administration through his fund-raising prowess, Ijaz has met with a succession of senior officials in the White House, State Department and Congress to further his business interests through changes in U.S. policy toward Islamic countries, particularly Sudan, a government long accused of sanctioning international terrorism. Much of the 1996 campaign fund-raising controversy has centered on questions about big donors currying influence and gaining access to administration officials. Ijaz's case illustrates the blurring of lines between fund-raising and the pursuit of personal political and financial agendas by those whose donations helped finance Clinton's reelection.

This is the only disclaimer offered by the CSM: "Mansoor Ijaz is chairman of The Crescent Investment Group, a private equity firm based in New York." That fails to reveal some deep connections to Romney's potential opponent in the general election, and it blurs the lines between political activism and journalism, too. Nowhere in the CS Monitor is this connection to the Clintons disclosed. Ijaz is no disinterested bystander or impartial analyst, not even for Muslim audiences. He was a bundler for the Clintons, attempting to torpedo a leading Republican candidate with a smear of bigotry.

A quick look at his contributions matches the Post's account. He has refrained from recent political donations, but he and Crescent have contributed over $200,000 to various Democratic Party candidates and organizations. No Republicans appear on this list, which calls into question why Ijaz just happened to attend a Romney event in the first place.

The Christian Science Monitor owes its readers an explanation of Ijaz' background and motivations. Allowing a Democratic operative to launch that kind of smear from the CSM without noting his connections to the leading Democratic frontrunner and the party amounts to journalistic malpractice.

UPDATE: Forgot the hat-tip to CapQ commenter Unclsmrgl, who first pointed out the contribution pattern.


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