Did Ron Suskind get it wrong in 'Confidence Men'?(Read article summary)
Journalist Ron Suskind is being criticized for inaccuracies and misquotes in 'Confidence Men,' his book on the Obama White House.
As his controversial new book hits shelves today, Ron Suskind is increasingly coming under fire for inaccuracies and misquotes alleged by the White House. As the storm builds over ‚ÄúConfidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,‚ÄĚ it‚Äôs difficult to determine ‚Äď on both sides ‚Äď where truth ends and image begins.
In an interview on NBC‚Äôs Today Show this morning, Mr. Suskind defended his book as ‚Äúpicture perfect‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúsolid as a brick‚ÄĚ even as host Ann Curry recited a series of refutations from those quoted in the book.
‚ÄúConfidence Men‚ÄĚ paints a picture of President Barack Obama‚Äôs lack of leadership and sometimes-dysfunctional White House economic team‚Äôs learning on the fly in the midst of an economic crisis. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Suskind says he conducted 746 hours of interviews with over 200 former and current people in the administration, including 50 minutes with the President himself. Some of those administration officials are now saying they‚Äôve been misquoted.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former chief economic adviser Christina Romer, and former Communications Director Anita Dunn, all contest the book‚Äôs reporting, saying their words were either taken out of context or never actually spoken.
In ‚ÄúConfidence Men,‚ÄĚ Ms. Dunn is quoted as saying ‚Äúthis place would be in court for a hostile workplace. .‚ÄČ.‚ÄČ. Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.‚ÄĚ
Dunn told The Washington Post that she was quoted out of context and that she told Suskind ‚Äúpoint blank‚ÄĚ that the White House was not a hostile work environment. Suskind allowed a Post reporter to review a recorded excerpt of his original interview with Dunn, in which she tells Suskind about a conversation she had with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
‚ÄúI remember once I told Valerie that, I said if it weren‚Äôt for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace,‚ÄĚ Dunn is heard telling Suskind. ‚ÄúBecause it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.‚ÄĚ
When pressed on the quote, a serious omission, Suskind told NBC‚Äôs Ms. Curry ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a political season‚Ä¶. everyone‚Äôs under pressure.‚ÄĚ
On Monday, Mr. Geithner also slammed ‚ÄúConfidence Men,‚ÄĚ calling it ‚Äúsad little stories.‚ÄĚ In it, Suskind claims Geithner dawdled in carrying out Obama‚Äôs orders on the economic crisis, and occasionally ignored his advice.
"I haven't read this book, but, to borrow a phrase, I lived the reality," Geithner told reporters at the White House, according to an AFP wire story. "And the reports I've read about this book bear no resemblance to the reality we lived together."
Refuting that he and other economic advisers were slow to implement Obama‚Äôs orders on the economy, Geithner told reporters, "I would never do that. I've spent my life in public service. It's my great privilege to serve this president. And I would never contemplate doing that."
Not surprisingly, Obama‚Äôs press secretary, Jay Carney, is also questioning Suskind‚Äôs credibility and the book‚Äôs accuracy.
"What we know is that very simple things, facts that could be ascertained ‚Äď dates, quotes, statistics ‚Äď are wrong in this book,‚ÄĚ Mr. Carney said Monday. "In fact, one passage seems to be lifted almost entirely from Wikipedia‚Ä¶. Based on that, I would caution anyone to assume that if you can't get those things right, you [can] get the broader analysis right," he added.
In the Today Show interview Tuesday, Curry also ran through a list of facts and statistics found to be inaccurately stated in the book.
Suskind, however, stood by his book. He pointed out that the book was 500 pages long and that it was hard to check every fact. He also said to Curry about the misquoting charges: ‚ÄúWhen the curtain is pulled back, [sources] often respond vigorously.‚ÄĚ He maintained that ‚ÄúConfidence Men‚ÄĚ was not about tearing Obama down but about charting his growth.
‚ÄúThe whole point of the book is the evolution of Barack Obama to now and the President is quite forceful. In a way saying ‚ÄėI'm the President, people hoped I would be,‚Äô and that's part of what the book says.‚ÄĚ
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.