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Q: Can news be falsely verified, and if so, what happens?

Jon Stewart discusses Judith Miller’s faulty reporting on weapons of mass destruction for the New York Times, on the Daily Show

A:

Yes, and it gets messy. The most famous example in recent memory of this happening is when Judith Miller of the New York Times reported that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) to be used against the U.S., which played a big part in the U.S. invading Iraq in March 2003.

Miller got her intel directly from the Pentagon, but it was later revealed that the Pentagon didn’t have solid information on these alleged WMDs. Moreover, it also came out that Miller was sympathetic to President G.W. Bush’s administration and agenda, so she didn’t investigate the claims more thoroughly, and didn’t try to corroborate them with independent third parties.

When she was grilled about her role in this on 60 Minutes, she defended herself by saying, “If your sources are wrong, you’re wrong,” to which her interviewer said, “Doesn’t that just reduce your role to that of a stenographer?”

Miller refuted the characterization, but it was for naught. She still lost her job at the Times over her faulty verification process, and her bad reporting on the WMDs has become an infamous case study in journalistic malpractice.