https://dailycaller.com/2020/01/11/soleimani-nyt-reporter-amplify-iranian-propaganda/

  • New York Times journalist Farnaz Fassihi has been amplifying Iranian propaganda into the media following Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s death.
  • The Daily Caller spoke with retired retired army intelligence officer Tony Shaffer and former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman about some of her tweets, where she cited anonymous Iranian sources.
  • Shaffer said he believes Fassihi could be getting information fed to her directly from the Iranian government in an effort to get Americans to sympathize with Soleimani’s death.

In the days following the Jan. 2 strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, one New York Times journalist in particular became the focus of criticism for consistently amplifying Iranian messaging.

The journalist was by no means an isolated case. Iranian propaganda and propagandists managed to get air time on CNN, Yahoo, the NYT and Washington Post, among other outlets, and a fake American death toll made headlines on MSNBC was actually sourced directly to Iranian media. Above it all though was New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi.

Fassihi’s aggressive dissemination of Iranian messaging started almost immediately after the Jan. 2 strike that killed Soleimani. She began Jan. 3 by peddling “unconfirmed reports” of “ballistic missiles hitting” Ain Al-Assad, the largest U.S. military base. There was no attack at that time.

NY Post reporter Jonathan Levine called her out when she later followed up to say the initial reports were false. Under pressure, Fassihi later deleted the tweet.

The same day, Fassihi posted a video showing a lighter side of the terrorist who has been accused of killing hundreds of Americans. The video, attributed to a “source in Iran,” shows Soleimani reciting poetry. The Daily Caller made several attempts to get a hold of Fassihi, and queries to the Times went unanswered.

In this picture taken on September 14, 2013, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, is seen as people pay their condolences following the death of his mother in Tehran. (MEHDI GHASEMI/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

“I think the government of Iran gave that to her,” Tony Shaffer, a retired army intelligence officer, told the Daily Caller. “How many on the ground folks do you have in Baghdad right now who are gonna be able to call you up and give you a video and you’re gonna believe it? They’re not. It’s incredible, it’s just not believable.”

Levine also slammed the poetry video as “Iranian propaganda” and wrote that Fassihi’s post was meant to show “the softer side of Soleimani.”

Gen. Sulaimani became a household name in #Iran after 2012 Syria war,” another series of Jan. 3 tweets from Fassihi read. “His image as a cult figure leading regional ‘resistance’ army was carefully cultivated & promoted to boost Iran’s image as regional power & to counter ISIS’s PR machine.”

“Photos & videos of him leading prayers in battlefield, sharing meals w/fighters, kissing orphans & reciting poetry were all collectively part of that image/brand making.”

Fassihi denied accusations that she was “sympathizing with” Soleimani in a Jan. 3 tweet, writing that it is “pure nonsense.” Meanwhile, much of her reporting in the following days was attributed to “sources in Iran” or directly to IRGC officers.

It is likely Fassihi was being fed Iranian propaganda directly from the government in an attempt to get Americans to sympathize with the terrorist general’s death, Shaffer said he believes. He added that Iran is “much more sophisticated than we give them credit for” and that they understand the benefits of using “global media to get their message out.”

“It appears to me that there is a process of information being fed to [Fassihi] by Iran by some source,” Shaffer said. “This parallels, from my experience as an intelligence officer, my experience with the IRGC, is that they are masters of deception.”

“The NYT has fundamentally become an outlet which is not only willing to put forth an alternate perspective, they’re willing to engage in, I will say aspirational reporting,” he continued. “They will say things from foreign sources knowing it’s wrong but they’ll put it out anyway because they are sympathetic politically. I see this as an example, this reporter.”

While former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman was less sure of Iran mounting an influence campaign on American journalists, he echoed Shafer’s assessment that the media was eager to amplify anything anti-Trump. He suggested that certain journalists have “predisposed views about the president” that could influence what they report.

“They’re [journalists] not pawns,” Hoffman said.

Another one of Fassihi’s tweets from Jan. 4 cites two unknown commanders. She claimed they had information about the U.S. asking countries to convince Iran not to retaliate. Shaffer and Hoffman both said it was unlikely that a commander would know this type of information.

“If I were going to tell you, I’d say, I’d have probably a high degree of confidence that they could not know,” Hoffman said. “Even then, where’s she getting this? There’s an influence as well as an informed element always.”

“So I just … I think people have rushed to judgment on this wildly, going right from the beginning. Massive rush to judgment.”

Shaffer and Hoffman also agreed about the trouble with citing anonymous sources. Hoffman told the Daily Caller that journalists should “be very clear on where those facts” that they are writing are coming from.

He added that journalists should also “provide some analysis about what it means and the possibility that that information is meant to influence.” (RELATED: New York Times Spread Fake News On Iraq’s Vote To Expel US Troops – Here’s What You Really Need To Know)

“The fact that this woman [Fassihi] lists basically anonymous sources, is not willing to reveal her sources, you’ve gotta question the veracity,” Shaffer said. “This, again, seems to me like propaganda rather than reporting.”

Fassihi’s numerous tweets amplifying Iranian state messaging were often signed off with the hashtag “Soleimani assassination.” After Trump announced that he would consider hitting Iran cultural sites, Fassihi began to tweet photos of various ancient historic sites in the country on Jan. 5.

Iranian mourners stand on a bridge during the final stage of funeral processions for slain top general Qasem Soleimani, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. - Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport on January 3 in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed "severe revenge". The assassination of the 62-year-old heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile, oil-rich Middle East and rattled financial markets. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian mourners stand on a bridge during the final stage of funeral processions for slain top general Qasem Soleimani, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

She also wrote a Jan. 5 puff piece on Soleimani for his funeral, noting that “millions of Iranians” attended. Her article ignored reports that the regime had forced many Iranians into the streets. Fassihi tweeted out a link encouraging her followers to watch the funeral live that day.

Following Iran’s attacks on two Iraq bases housing U.S. troops Jan. 7., Fassihi tweeted out reports that “war” would begin if the U.S. retaliated. This reporting was also attributed to “sources in Iran.”

“Sources in Iran say if US doesn’t retaliate then Iran will also de-escalate. But if it does, then it’s war. IRGC statements reflect same,” Fassihi wrote.

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