The London Review of Books published Seymour Hersh‘s 10,000-word article about Osama bin Laden’s death last week. The piece spawned many media stories, as well as quite a few interviews with the 78-year-old reporter. Here are some enjoyable Hersh-reporter interactions from last week.
1) Isaac Chotiner, Slate, May 13
Chotiner: OK but here is my question about journalism, since you have been doing this longer than I have—
Hersh: Oh poor you, you don’t know anything. It is amazing you can speak the God’s English.
Chotiner: I feel like you are telling me two different things. One is that you get less pressure in Europe, and the other is that this story would have been fine at the New Yorker.
Hersh: So fine, I am glad you are confused. Write whichever one makes you happy.
Hersh: I don’t mean to yell at you but I feel good doing it. Goodbye.
2) Bob Garfield, On the Media, May 13
Hersh: Ask me a good question. Here’s a question you can ask me: Do I have any evidence that anything I say is true. Evidence.
Garfield: Do you have any evidence that anything you say is true? Documents?
Hersh: … I don’t have a thing in writing that says anything. And I haven’t had for all my stories. It’s easy when you have a document. In the story I did about Abu Ghraib I had an internal report that was devastating. And in the My Lai story when I was just a kid I had seen a piece of paper I talked about but I didn’t have it …. But most of the stories you get, and all those stories I was writing for the New Yorker after 9/11, all done on exactly the same basis as this story.
Hersh: You want my answer to that?
Garfield: I do.
Hersh: Boo hoo. Just boo hoo. Who cares. I write my stories. I’m not doing it through any different reporting than I did 20 years ago, and believe me, the criticism I had for some of those early stories, going back to My Lai…. I do counternarrative. And that has a cost. But you know something? I’ve been around a long time, I still have my fastball, and I just have pretty much learned to ignore much of the critics.
3) Paul Farhi, the Washington Post, May 15
“It’s not my fault I have f—ing sources most reporters don’t have,” he says from his office in Washington, between fending off calls from reporters seeking comment.
The official narrative “has been fixed,” he adds. “It’s complete. You bought the narrative! That’s why there’s so much anger. It’s not jealousy. It’s more than that. People are just f—ing bats— about this.”
4) Michael Calderone, the Huffington Post, May 12
Hersh said [New Yorker editor David] Remnick “wasn’t afraid of a different point-of-view” and brushed off suggestions of ongoing tensions over the bin Laden raid account.
“Excuse me,” Hersh said. “Arguing with an editor. That’s so unusual?”
5) Chris Cuomo, CNN, May 11
Cuomo: I’m just saying you’ve made a big wager here with a pedigree that extends many years–
Hersh: Excuse me. Excuse me. No. That’s your definition. This is not a wager. This is a story that has to be dealt with by this government very seriously.
6) Armin Rosen, Business Insider, May 11
“You’re talking about someone who was a freelance reporter in 1969 and wrote about massacring hundreds of people in Vietnam for an anti-war news agency,” Hersh said. “My God, you don’t think I had trouble then?”
He’s irritated at what he sees as a public obsession with where and how his bin Laden report had been published. “It’s not a press story — it’s a story about what the government does,” Hersh said. “If the questions are about the press, I can’t help you.”
7) Peter Lloyd, ABC (Australia), May 14
Lloyd: Why publish in the London Review of Books? Is there a different fact-checking standard? And there is at least one report, the New Yorker turned down the story.
Hersh: I think talking about where I publish is so silly…
Lloyd: Well, I’m wondering why the New Yorker wouldn’t publish it?
Hersh: Well, because I didn’t give it to them, that’s why.