By Ben Norton
Journalist Sulome Anderson, whose reporting on Hezbollah has repeatedly been called into question, has admitted that one of her supposed Hezbollah sources is “incredibly unreliable,” after she was once again exposed for having reported false information.
On May 9, Anderson tweeted two videos that she claimed showed Iran supposedly firing missiles at the illegally Israel-occupied Golan. Numerous Twitter users immediately pointed out that the videos contained no such footage.
Anderson then deleted these tweets, and they were not archived. But an archived Google search shows the cached versions of the tweets:
Both videos were bogus, as Anderson herself soon acknowledged.
After deleting the fake videos, she issued a correction, tweeting, “Correction: earlier today I posted a video a source sent me who was under the impression that it was of an Israeli airstrike in Syria this morning; it was actually of a mine clearing in Damascus. Miscommunication down the line. Tweet has been deleted.”
“Okay folks, one of my sources has proven incredibly unreliable and I apologize for the misinformation. I’m taking a break to sort out what’s real and what’s not. Mistakes are inevitable, sometimes we are misled by sources and the important thing is to correct and retract.”
Sulome Anderson’s sloppy anti-Hezbollah reporting
Sulome Anderson has nurtured a serious grudge against Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and armed group. She has become notorious for anti-Hezbollah propaganda laundered behind the guise of field reporting.
Anderson is also notorious for journalistic sloppiness. On July 3, 2017, she published a print article and accompanying video report in Newsweek with the title “The Next Middle East War? Hezbollah May Risk Everything in All-Out Fight With Israel.”
Soon after, Lebanese writer Ali Kourani published a rejoinder, entitled “When This Western Journalist Reports on Hezbollah: What Sulome Anderson’s Latest Newsweek Article Reveals About the Standards of Western Journalism In The Middle East.”
Kourani pointed out numerous false claims and errors in Anderson’s piece, some of which demonstrated a comically facile understanding of the political terrain of Lebanon.
He noted, for instance, that Anderson’s video report was shot in the Palestinian Yarmouk camp, south of the Syrian capital Damascus, where “Hezbollah has absolutely zero presence.” Her video clearly showed Palestinian flags and the Arabic-language logo of Fatah al-Intifada. Anyone with an elementary-level knowledge of Arabic would have been able to read “Fatah.”
Further underscoring an ignorance of basic Arabic, Kourani explained how her Newsweek video incorrectly translated “Ahrar al-Sham” as “Jaysh al-Islam” — two distinct Salafi-jihadist rebel groups in Syria.
Kourani drew attention to several other factual errors in Anderson’s report. And soon after he published his response on Medium, Newsweek quietly issued an impressive seven-sentence, 168-word correction:
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that Hassan Nasrallah threatened retaliatory strikes against America in a speech. It was Hezbollah media that made such a threat. A previous version of this story also offered an incorrect casualty range for Hezbollah during the 2006 war. The group provided no official estimate of its casualties. But Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council estimated that 68 Hezbollah fighters died during the conflict. Israel claimed it killed 500-600. A previous version of this story originally quoted a Hezbollah commander about the group’s Borkan-1 missiles. He was likely referring to the Burkan Dwarf Missile. A previous version of this story referred to a member of Hezbollah as a lieutenant; the group does not have that rank and the term was meant as an approximation. Lastly, a previous version of this story quoted a Hezbollah fighter mistakenly saying that someone who went to war for the group in Syria when he was 18-years-old would now be 25; he would now be 22 or 23.
If a journalist were this dishonest in reporting on a US ally, it could be career-ending. But when you’re reporting negatively on Official Enemies like Hezbollah, these kinds of lie-filled hatchet jobs are acceptable — even in the pages of progressive outlets.
Kourani also noted in his article: “Anderson has faced backlash in the past over the authenticity of her sources (her articles are based on interviews she claims to have conducted with numerous Hezbollah commanders).”
Scholar As’ad AbuKhalil, an esteemed expert on Middle East politics and professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus, has also repeatedly called into question Anderson’s error-filled reporting.
“Oh, come on, Sulome: you basically want us to believe that a Hizbullah ‘fighter’ basically excl told you how horrible and terrorist they are?” AbuKhalil asked her. “How come they never make such declaration in Arabic to Arabic media? That raises questions.”
He quipped, “Can you imagine that this passes as US media coverage of the Middle East?”