The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


NYT Misleads Readers on Iran Crisis

Paper disappears some inaccurate reporting


In two articles yesterday (1/5/12), the New York Times misled readers about the state of Iran's nuclear program.

On the front page, the Times' Steven Erlanger reported this:

The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign.

There is no such International Atomic Energy Agency assessment. The IAEA report the Times is mischaracterizing raised questions about the state of the Iranian program, and presented the evidence, mostly years old, that Iran's critics say points towards a weapons program. (This evidence has been challenged by outside analysts--see FAIR Media Advisory, 11/16/11.) But the IAEA report made no firm conclusion that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, and noted that its inspections of Iran's facilities continue to show no diversion of uranium for military purposes.

Elsewhere in the Times, readers saw this in a piece by Clifford Krauss about a potential conflict over the Strait of Hormuz:

Various Iranian officials in recent weeks have said they would blockade the strait, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, if the United States and Europe imposed a tight oil embargo on their country in an effort to thwart its development of nuclear weapons.

Again, Iran has said repeatedly and emphatically that they are doing no such thing.

Interestingly, the Times has changed the Web version of the Erlanger article, removing the relevant paragraph--but without noting the error.

Overstating the case on Iran isn't a new problem at the Times. One story last month (12/8/11) referred matter-of-factly to the "recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon."

With tensions between Iran and the United States rising, and Republican presidential candidates agitating for a more confrontational stance, it is imperative that outlets like the New York Times get the story right. If the Times wishes to do better than it did during the run-up to the Iraq War, it should be more careful.


Contact the New York Times and ask it to investigate and explain the editing of the January 5 front-page article, and to correct both misleading assertions about Iran and nuclear weapons.


New York Times

Public Editor Arthur Brisbane


Phone: 212-556-7652

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.