A Tragedy of Errors-Six Words That Roiled the World
In other words, the day the story broke, the Army had a tiny window of opportunity to turn the situation around to humiliate and mock Newsweek. This might have stopped the story in its tracks.
Instead, an investigation was launched and weeks later, on May 27, the Army announced that five instances were found where the Koran was dissed at Guantanamo, but no record existed of one being flushed down a toilet.
Meanwhile, in the ensuing brouhaha, Newsweek had second thoughts about the authenticity of the reportage. In the issue on the newsstand the following Monday, Editor Mark Whitaker admitted the story was inaccurate. Hoping an apology would lay the story to rest, Whitaker wrote, "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."
The apology did not cut it. The Pentagon was quite rightly in high dudgeon. Spokesman Bryan Whitman called the story "irresponsible" and demonstrably false." He went on, "Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which, by their own admission, do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weighed in, saying, "It's appalling that this story got out there." Her sentiments were echoed by Rumsfeld, who said, "People lost their lives. People are dead. People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful of what they do."
Finally on May 16, Newsweek was shamed into issuing a full retraction. In a statement, Whitaker said, "Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Qur'an abuse at Guantanamo Bay."