HuffPost journalist Akbar Shahid Ahmed published a piece Friday titled “A Top Biden Official Is Pushing An Urgent Post-Gaza Plan That’s Alarming Some Insiders.” Ahmed reported that diplomat Brett McGurk, a top Biden aide, is behind a 90-day plan to rebuild Gaza after the conclusion of the war between Israel and Hamas — and that many in the White House have raised concerns about how the plan could negatively impact stability in the region.
Ahmed said that he spoke to several U.S. officials about the plan and included their anonymous quotes in the article. On Saturday, he tweeted that National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson had finally answered his request for comment… and that she completely denied his quotes.
The article and subsequent comment from Watson has raised eyebrows throughout the industry. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted of Watson’s response, “Utterly embarrassing, gross and unprofessional response from @NSC_Spox.”
Describing the situation, Ahmed wrote, “20 hours after my deadline — now my story has been read by >150k people — WH has sent comment. Spox Adrienne Watson: ‘This story is not true. Quotes attributed to US officials are made up.'”
He added, “Watson played no role in my interviews. My quotes are real. Biden team again echoing Trump.”
20 hours after my deadline—now my story has been read by >150k people—WH has sent comment. Spox Adrienne Watson: "This story is not true. Quotes attributed to US officials are made up."
Watson played no role in my interviews.
My quotes are real. Biden team again echoing Trump. https://t.co/cQLVJgnnSK
— Akbar Shahid Ahmed (@AkbarSAhmed) January 13, 2024
Ahmed continued, “I sent the WH detailed questions + criticisms based on very reliable sources; I also extended my deadline at their request. They chose not to engage yesterday & have now decided they have to. They can’t actually dispute the story on its merits so they’re resorting to lies.”
He added, “Earlier in the day, a contact told me a US official they contacted about my story said I lack credibility & am seen as an extremist. Such smear tactics in response to scrutiny & journalism are scary—and reflective of the Trump-style thinking Biden is selling himself as opposing.
“Baseless claims of lies have defined much of the Biden admin’s deeply controversial public response to Oct 7, from questioning Gaza’s death toll to denying a basis for fears of war crimes. They haven’t quelled huge public frustration or alarm among natsec folks in & outside gov.”
Ahmed added, “And they won’t have their intended effect on me: I stand by my reporting & I’ll keep aggressively covering US foreign policy, as I’ve done for more than a decade; my integrity is widely acknowledged by folks in my field & working on these issues.”
Alex Ward, a national security writer at Politico, expressed his frustration with the administration’s resonse. He tweeted, “Akbar is a brilliant, careful and thoughtful reporter. To even insinuate that he would make up quotes is beyond the pale.”
Akbar is a brilliant, careful and thoughtful reporter. To even insinuate that he would make up quotes is beyond the pale. https://t.co/Ua82fxBBLF
— Alex Ward (@alexbward) January 14, 2024
Sabrina Siddiqui, White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal, echoed this. She wrote, “@AkbarSAhmed is a stellar reporter whose coverage of the conflict has been essential reading. It’s one thing to dispute a story or aspects of it, but to suggest a reporter is making up quotes is a serious accusation and not in any way reflective of Akbar’s professionalism.”
.@AkbarSAhmed is a stellar reporter whose coverage of the conflict has been essential reading. It's one thing to dispute a story or aspects of it, but to suggest a reporter is making up quotes is a serious accusation and not in any way reflective of Akbar's professionalism. https://t.co/cChfx2V8Sl
— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) January 14, 2024
The National Security Council has not offered additional comments.
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