The Shashi Fan Club -- and Reuters -- Responds
The first is from a reader, calling himself "Emet," who claims that he was at the event in question. He defends Tharoor in a comment to my post, saying that Tharoor was a veritable pillar of integrity who publicly castigated Shamir. And besides, our reader points out, "the decision to include Israel Shamir was made prior to Tharoor's appointment."
Well, I don't know how "Emet" is privy to the internal workings of the UN Department of Public Information, but... putting that aside and assuming its accuracy.... as another comment notes, Tharoor was appointed five months before the Paris "forum" that gave a platform to a joker who is so extreme that he is disowned by the Palestinians.
Tharoor's UN bio confirms that he was appointed in January 2001, while the "UN International Media Encounter on the Question of Palestine" was held in June 2001. Five months. Hmmm.... I think five months was plenty of time for Tharoor to unpack, put up his pictures, water his plants, make a pot of coffee and... yes, vet the participants in the UN International Media Encounter on the Question of Palestine. Or, at the very least, delegate one of the seven hundred flacks, bureaucrats and propagandists at the Department of Public Information to do it for him.
So sorry Emet. Shashi hadn't "just been appointed to head UNDPI." Nice try. But thanks for posting and good luck with your blog, Tharoor's Record. No kidding--that's its name. (Wow.... you really like the guy, don't you........)
By the way, if Tharoor really did go ape when Shamir started mouthing off, as Emet contends, one would think that there would be something in the public record distancing the DPI (and Tharoor personally) from the invitation. There isn't.
Back to the question--why did Tharoor allow a creepy anti-Semite to participate in a UN forum--and probably pay his way to Paris if not pay him for participating on the panel? How could did he do such a thing? Well, he could be an anti-Semite himself who didn't see anything wrong with Shamir's very public excoriations of the Jewish people. He could be just dumb and incompetent. Or Shashi could have realized that nobody would care. After all, he was among chums--the media.
That brings me to the really most fascinating response to my item. A reader decided to send copies of my post on Tharoor to some UN reporters, as a way of alerting them to this Tharoor-Shamir business and perhaps arouse their interest. After all, it is a legitimate news story and is entirely contained in the public record. What if Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, had done exactly what Tharoor had done? It would be page one news from coast to coast--and I daresay that "I've only been on the job for five months" wouldn't wash. McClellan would be fired so fast it would make your head spin.
Anyway, this reader received back a snippy response from none other Evelyn Leopold, UN correspondent for the Reuters "news" service. Leopold said in an email to this reader "You have an agenda and relly [sic] don't know what you are talking about. Tis embarrassing."
Wow. This lady is most definitely not interested and is really annoyed that someone would dare question the record of our Minister of Propaganda. Isn't that interesting? Putting aside the irony of someone from Reuters accusing anyone else on this planet of having an "agenda," we have this "don't know what you're talking about" stuff. Say Evelyn, it's all in the public record--Shamir's Jew-baiting, his participation in the "forum," his repudiation by the Palestinians-- every bit of it.
Evelyn's email substantiates what we already know, which is that that the relationship between the UN press corps and the UN is closerthanthis, as the gossip columnists used to say. Sure, some of them have been on the payroll, but you don't have to be functioning as a paid flack or UN TV host to abandon your role as an inquiring journalist and switch over to a defender of the UN and its officials when they are criticized. We saw this during Koffigate and we see this happening with Tharoor.
I don't know. Would Evelyn Leopold act this way if she were a White House correspondent and it really was Scott McClellan who hosted Israel Shamir--or perhaps some anti-black or anti-Catholic bigot? We can only surmise...
Anyway, there are still more issues raised by Shashigate, but that's enough for now.