The two activists who confronted Chelsea Clinton at a vigil for the horrific gun massacre in New Zealand were given a guest column by Buzzfeed that allowed them to attack and smear Clinton further, and blame her for contributing to the slaughter.
Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf are the students who accosted Ms. Clinton at a vigil in New York Friday night, where they blamed Clinton’s “rhetoric” for the gun massacre that killed 49 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand. Dweik harangued Clinton as Asaf filmed the confrontation, which then went viral.
“This, right here, is a result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put out into the world,” Dweik said in the video. “And I want you to know that, and I want you to feel that deep down inside. Forty-nine people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”
On Saturday night, Buzzfeed published a guest column by Dweik and Asaf in which the activists explain their actions, and continue to attack Clinton.
In the column, the pair accused Clinton of using her platform to “fan those flames” of a “bigoted, anti-Muslim mob,” “stok(ing) hatred against” Muslims, playing a “role” in “anti-Muslim bigotry” that “created this killer,” and more like that.
What was missing from the column was any specific factual basis for any of these claims, which appear to be based on some tweets that Chelsea Clinton posted in the wake of Rep. Ilhan Omar‘s (D-MI) comment that support for the positions of AIPAC was “All about the Benjamins.”
In particular, some have criticized Clinton for objecting to the remark “as an American,” the alleged implication being that Rep. Omar is less than American. But Clinton’s tweet was in response to a tweet signed “Sincerely, American Jews,” which would indicate that Clinton was making a benign distinction between herself and Jewish Americans:
Co-signed as an American. We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 11, 2019
There is a notion among media outlets that the term “opinion” covers a multitude of sins, and relieves them of any duty to ordinary journalistic standards. This is an unfortunate state of play.
But there is a huge difference between an ordinary “opinion” article, and one which offers a set of facts about a news event in which the authors have participated, and Buzzfeed erred significantly in this regard.
Their very first choice should have been to offer the activists a chance to be interviewed, which would have allowed a reporter to ask follow-up questions about the accusations they’re making against Chelsea Clinton, or about other issues related to them.
Failing that, they should have applied more strict editorial oversight to this piece, and insisted — at a minimum — that the authors provide some evidence for their claims against Clinton. They needn’t have demanded convincing evidence, necessarily — since one seems to exist — but some sort of internal logic for claiming that someone is partially responsible for a massacre.
A good editor would also have asked them to address criticisms of their actions that were not included in the piece.
Offering newsworthy figures a guest column is an increasingly common practice, but when such a column involves reporting on events in which the authors participated, and which are being used to attack another individual, extraordinary caution and oversight must be exercised.
Watch the confrontation above.
[Featured image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.