A magazine that altered an article referring to President Barack Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, says it did so because he was misquoted, but the author of the article is standing by her story.
Hussain, now a deputy associate White House counsel, was quoted back in 2004 decrying the prosecution of a Florida professor accused of ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Sami Al-Arian. However, CNSNews reported Monday that the article quoting Hussain, published in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, was subsequently sanitized on the Web to remove the quotes and all other references to Hussain. The changes appear to have taken place in 2007 or later.
According to the original story, Hussain told a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference in '04 that the criminal case against Al-Arian was one of a series of “politically motivated persecutions.” Hussain also reportedly asserted that Al-Arian was being “used politically to squash dissent.”
Washington Report news editor Delinda Hanley said Tuesday that Hussain's quotes were taken down because the quotes attributed to him actually came from Al-Arian's daughter, Laila Al-Arian, who took part in the same panel discussion. “Laila Al-Arian said the things attributed to Rashad Hussain, and an intern who attended the event and wrote up the article made an error, which was corrected on our Web site by deleting the two quotes in their entirety,” Hanley wrote in an e-mail to POLITICO.
However, the author of the article, Shereen Kandil, said Tuesday that she stood by her original report.
“When I worked as a reporter, I understood how important it was to quote the right person, and accurately,” Kandil wrote in response to an e-mailed query from POLITICO asking about the possibility of a misquotation.
“I have never mixed my sources and wouldn't have quoted Rashad Hussain if it came from Laila Al-Arian. If the editors from WRMEA felt they wanted to remove Rashad Hussain from the article, my assumption is that they did it for reasons other than what you're saying,” said Kandil, who also works in the Obama administration as a program analyst for the Middle East in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of International Affairs.
A White House spokesman, who asked not to be named, said Tuesday afternoon that Hussain “certainly doesn’t recall making that statement. He was on the panel to talk about his legal writing on civil liberties. Ms. Al-Arian spoke about her father.” The spokesman said he had no information about whether Hussain had requested the change to the story.
Reached by phone Monday night, Laila Al-Arian said she thought it was possible she made the statements ascribed to Hussain, but that no one from Washington Report called her to ask if the quotes did belong to her. “It's kind of sad that a right-wing, pseudo-news website gets as much credence,” Al-Arian said about the CNSNews account. “I don’t remember Rashad being there. It's possible that the quote could have been misattributed.”