On August 24, 2013, Jerome Corsi published a ‘WND Exclusive’ titled “Evidence U.S. bribed Muslim Brotherhood officials” (archived here). The “evidence” in question was a photo that appeared at the top of Corsi’s article:
The caption below this photo read: “Official Morsi government document: “Direction of Grants and Gifts for 2013,” submitted by Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabor Al Thani, former Qatari prime minister and foreign affairs minister.”
Starting with the second paragraph of the article, Corsi explains the origins of this supposed evidence:
WND is in possession of an official document from inside the Morsi government that lends credibility to a report published in Arabic by an Egyptian newspaper in Cairo that lists the charges brought by the current military-controlled government against Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
As seen above, WND has obtained official records from the deposed Morsi government in Egypt, with signatures, documenting monthly “gifts” paid to Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt by the former prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani.
The document was seized from Egyptian government offices in Cairo when the Morsi government was deposed by the military July 3.
Three important factual claims Corsi makes in this article and in this excerpt:
– 1) This is an official document from inside the Morsi government.
– 2) The document was seized from Egyptian government offices in Cairo on or after July 3, 2013.
– 3) WND is in possession of this document.
The first claim may or may not be true; it’s possible the document could be authentic, but Corsi offers no corroborating evidence for its authenticity apart from claiming that it was seized from Morsi’s offices and that WND now has it. Meanwhile, the second and third claims above (i.e., that it was seized from Morsi’s offices and that WND now has it) are outright lies by Corsi. The document was not seized on or after July 3, and it’s not in WND’s possession. In fact, in all likelihood, Corsi and WND possess nothing more than the above digital photo, and not even the entire printed page.
This can be said with a fair degree of certainty because this exact photo appeared on both Facebook and Twitter on July 1, 2013.
— Diaa Abbas (@O1diaa) July 1, 2013
It’s funny how if WND is in possession of this document, the one and only photo they happen to have of it is a photo that had been online, publicly posted on other social media websites, for at least seven weeks.
But this still wasn’t the first appearance online of this document. Because an image of the ENTIRE PAGE was posted on Facebook a full month earlier, on June 2, 2013:
So while Corsi claims that this document was seized from Morsi’s offices on or after July 3, it was already online a month before that. And the very photo Corsi uses appeared online before he claims the document was seized. In other words, Corsi is flat-out making up an origin for this document. Complete and utter fabrication.
(By contrast, certain Egyptian websites that published the cropped photo in early July stated that the document was seized from Muslim Brotherhood offices, not Egyptian government offices. Whether or not that’s reliable, it still conflicts with Corsi’s claim.)
The contents of this full page also strongly suggest that Corsi had nothing more than the single, borrowed digital photo. The full page, which is labelled as being “Page 4”, numbers the individuals listed, and suggests a total of 72 persons. Nowhere does Corsi mention there being that many people listed. The full page also includes, at the bottom, a gross total of grants and gifts of $79,150,000, which Corsi similarly and inexplicably omits. Both of these details would be central to the story he’s telling, but they’re missing from the article.
Corsi cites an Egyptian news story that claims several Egyptian officials accepted bribes, and names five such individuals. The names of two of those individuals, Mohamed Beltagy and Essam Sultan, appear on this full document. But Corsi writes “Shoebat also noted that the names listed in the document match the names in the Egyptian newspaper Almesryoon, including Mohamed Beltagy.” Beltagy is the last name visible in Corsi’s photo; Essam Sultan’s name, however, appears on the next line of the full page, and is cropped out of the photo. Thus, even though he cited Sultan by name, Corsi failed to cite Sultan’s appearance on the document because Corsi only had the cropped photo.
It’s important to note that nowhere in the article does Corsi cite a source for the photo; everything he writes suggests anything other than the message that WND has physical possession of this paper document. For one, Corsi explicitly says that WND is in possession of the document. For another, Corsi does not cite any external source for the document or the photo. He never admits it’s been published before, he doesn’t link to any of its previous online appearances, and he doesn’t acknowledge how WND got its photo. Indeed, every indication from the article is that WND took the photo itself.
Unsurprisingly, in the nearly-two months since this Corsi article was published, the document hasn’t been authenticated further. It doesn’t appear to have been mentioned by any other credible news outlets. Corsi himself hasn’t done any notable follow-up on it. But really, the authenticity of the document is beside the point here; my interest in reporting this isn’t in ridiculing Corsi for believing a fake document.
My interest isn’t even in the fact that the headline for Corsi’s article is “Evidence U.S. bribed Muslim Brotherhood Officials,” despite the complete lack of any evidence, even on this unproven document, suggesting any U.S. involvement whatsoever.
No, the important takeaway here is that Jerome Corsi blatantly lied about possessing the document. And he lied about where it came from. Falling for a fake story is a journalistic faux pas; proactively telling lies to one’s readership about the fruits of one’s research is a massive violation of journalistic ethics. Corsi claimed to be in possession of this official document; he wasn’t. He downloaded a heavily-cropped photo from some website, and then conveniently omitted his source. He instead stated that the document was obtained following Morsi’s removal from office on July 3, 2013; it wasn’t. The document was available online a full month before then, and even the very same photo Corsi uses was on Facebook and Twitter before Morsi left office. Corsi knew this, but he lied to his readers anyway about what he did and did not have. No self-respecting journalist engages in such dishonesty, and no self-proclaimed ‘journalist’ who does so should be trusted or even given the benefit of the doubt.