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Rumsfeld spokesman: Woodward practices “access journalism”

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff accused Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on Tuesday of practicing "access journalism,"  and said that Woodward has been repeatedly accused of "tilting the facts,"  "misleading remarks," "disingenuous statements," and placing "book sales above journalism." Keith Urbahn, who is also Rumsfeld’s official spokesperson, made the accusations in a ...

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Getty Images
Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff accused Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on Tuesday of practicing "access journalism,"  and said that Woodward has been repeatedly accused of "tilting the facts,"  "misleading remarks," "disingenuous statements," and placing "book sales above journalism."

Keith Urbahn, who is also Rumsfeld's official spokesperson, made the accusations in a statement to reporters in response to Woodward's scathing critique of Rumsfeld's recently released memoir, Known and Unknown.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff accused Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward on Tuesday of practicing "access journalism,"  and said that Woodward has been repeatedly accused of "tilting the facts,"  "misleading remarks," "disingenuous statements," and placing "book sales above journalism."

Keith Urbahn, who is also Rumsfeld’s official spokesperson, made the accusations in a statement to reporters in response to Woodward’s scathing critique of Rumsfeld’s recently released memoir, Known and Unknown.

"Rumsfeld’s memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others — including President Bush — distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won’t wash," Woodward wrote on Foreign Policy‘s Best Defense blog, run by Tom Ricks.

Woodward expressed skepticism of Rumsfeld’s claim that he kept no notes of a crucial Sept. 12, 2001, meeting, during which Rumsfeld allegedly brought up the idea of attacking Iraq. Woodward also noted that Rumsfeld’s book contradicted his own previous statements about when the Bush administration began discussing an invasion of Iraq, and criticized Rumsfeld for trying to absolve himself of blame for the post-invasion mistakes.

Urbahn accused Woodward of favoring his sources and granting them anonymity in exchange for access, while pushing his own storyline ahead of the facts.

"The well known story about Bob Woodward is that he practices what is derided as ‘access journalism,’ whereby he favors those who provide him with information and gossip and leak against their colleagues," he said in a statement, which was also posted on Rumsfeld’s Facebook page. "Those who refuse to play along, such as Donald Rumsfeld, then pay the price."

Woodward’s critique referenced multiple interviews with Rumsfeld, including three hours spent with Rumsfeld over two days in July 2006.

Urbahn implied that Woodward had fabricated a famous interview conducted at the death bed of CIA Director Bill Casey where Casey admitted guild and implicated President Ronald Reagan, in the Iran-Contra affair.

"There is most notoriously the supposed deathbed conversation he had with former CIA Director Bill Casey that implicated President Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair and just so conveniently provided the perfect scene for a book Woodward was writing on the CIA — even though Mr. Casey was reported to be nearly comatose at the time and witnesses, including Mr. Casey’s widow, denied Woodward’s account," Urbahn said.

"Woodward ends his latest attempt to defend his version of events by suggesting that at some point in the future ‘when all the records are available,’ new facts and assertions that come to light will differ from those in Known and Unknown," Urbahn said. "If this means Woodward is now committed to writing a serious book of history based on contemporaneous documents and first-hand sources he is to be commended."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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