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Shame on the National Press Club

In Washington a few weeks ago I went to the National Press Club for the first time. While I was on vacation, the club decided to suspend a reporter for asking tough questions to a Saudi crown prince during a press conference there. Here’s the exchange:

HUSSEINI: There’s been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have — other than billions of dollars and weapons? [...]

TURKI: After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country? According to his definition, obviously. So, until, when was it — 1910 when women got to vote — from 1789 to 1910 United States was illegitimate? This is how you should measure things, by how people recognize their faults and try to overcome them.

HUSSEINI: So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?

MODERATOR: Sam, that’s enough — this lady to the right, you’re next.

The NPC then suspended Husseini’s membership, which is an absolute outrage. I was actually considering joining the National Press Club; not anymore. And I don’t care that they reversed their decision — 10 days into a two week suspension. If the National Press Club isn’t going to defend reporters asking tough questions, particularly of a dictator, they are completely useless.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    If the National Press Club isn’t going to defend reporters asking tough questions, particularly of a dictator, they are completely useless.

    On the contrary, Ed, they’re extremely useful. They may be scoundrels, or tools, or idiots — but no matter what, they’re useful idiots.

  2. abnormalwrench says

    That was an interesting exchange, and I’d have loved to see more of it. I find it interesting that the prince never actually addressed the core of the question, what legitimizes his rule?

    Say what you will about women’s rights in America, before that, we still had elected officials.

  3. says

    Say what you will about women’s rights in America, before that, we still had elected officials.

    It also helped that we had a Constitution that could be amended so that we could correct old mistakes.

  4. d cwilson says

    Follow up question:

    So, when will the citizens of Saudi Arabia be allowed to elect someone to hold your office?

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Holy effin’ heck. This **is** outrageous.

    I’ll admit that I don’t really understand how the reporter got to “backwards” for the 2nd question, but the first question could easily have been asked of a representative of Iran without blowback from the NPC. To suspend a reporter for asking questions that would be praised of him(? it seems so) is a pure, political defense of the powerful from difficult questions when, in fact, it is the actual job of the press. This is atrocious.

  6. Aquaria says

    I’ll admit that I don’t really understand how the reporter got to “backwards” for the 2nd question

    After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country? According to his definition, obviously. So, until, when was it — 1910 when women got to vote — from 1789 to 1910 United States was illegitimate?

    Here’s a short list of when women got the vote in various countries (NOT INTENDED TO BE COMPREHENSIVE):

    1893 New Zealand
    1902 Australia
    1906 Finland
    1913 Norway
    1915 Denmark
    1917 Canada
    1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
    1919 Netherlands
    1920 United States
    1921 Sweden
    1928 Britain, Ireland
    1931 Spain
    1944 France
    1945 Italy
    1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
    1949 China
    1950 India
    1954 Colombia
    1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
    1962 Algeria
    1963 Iran, Morocco
    1964 Libya
    1967 Ecuador
    1971 Switzerland
    1972 Bangladesh
    1974 Jordan
    1976 Portugal
    1989 Namibia
    1990 Western Samoa
    1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
    1994 South Africa
    2005 Kuwait
    2006 United Arab Emirates
    2011 Saudia Arabia

    Saudi Arabia is behind the curve.

  7. michaelcrichton says

    The suspension is bullshit but “HUSSEINI: So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?” is a bit of a non sequiter.

  8. davidcbrayton says

    I am appalled by this action. I am flabbergasted that the largest association of journalists doesn’t understand what the first amendment is all about. Asking a leader about the rights of his followers and whether his rule is legitimate is always, always, forever and always, a legitimate subject of questioning, even in the most rude, condescending terms imaginable.

  9. Michael Heath says

    Husseni’s question is perfectly framed within the ‘just governance’ argument of the Declaration of Independence. It’s pretty disturbing the National Press Club has a cow when a journalist requests an answer from a government official explicitly framed by the fact his country is violating one of the most celebrated enlightenment principles claimed to be held dear by all of Western Civilization.

    And the answer to Turki’s question is that the U.S. has absolutely failed and continues to fail to live up the standard of the Declaration of Independence’s ‘just governance’ standard. From that standard we are not legitimate; e.g., the government’s failure to defend the rights of gays and their families while also denying them the equal exercise of their rights, the government’s promotion of religion and failure to defend the individual religious freedom rights of public school students to the point we effectively abuse public school children by denying them an optimal education.

  10. flash says

    I hereby suggest that the name of the organization be changed to the National Media Whore Club, in order to more accurately reflect their true purpose. As a side note, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the reporter’s name being evidently Arab in origin. Welcome to America, Inc. Mr. or Ms. Husseni!

  11. Android B says

    This is a little off topic but did anyone notice that the Saudi Prince knew off the top of his head roughly (ok, 10 years off, but still pretty close) when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and that he didn’t count the beginning of the nation from 1776 but 1789, when the US Constitution was ratified and the US government as we know it began? I have to admit, I’m impressed.

    I would venture to guess if you walked around asking average Americans when women got the right to vote and when the US Constitution went into effect they would not exhibit the same knowledge.

    It’s a sad indictment of the American education system if it’s anything.

  12. macallan says

    That was an interesting exchange, and I’d have loved to see more of it. I find it interesting that the prince never actually addressed the core of the question, what legitimizes his rule?

    Easy – his clan beat the crap out of the other clans so the chief declared himself king and named the country after his clan.
    Oh, wait, that’s not the politically correct answer? Silly me.

  13. says

    The suspension was a little overboard, but to be fair I can see how they might have thought the “backward” comment was out of line and needlessly provocative.

  14. stevebowen says

    If I had to take issue with the questions it would be “So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?”
    If the question had been “So are you saying Arab nations are backward” it might have sounded a little less racist.

  15. matty1 says

    I’ve found Mr Husseini’s own account of what happened if anyone is interested.

    Also interesting looking through the site is that he appears to make a habit of asking questions other journalists avoid, possibly a man to watch.

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