A Canadian-born correspondent for ABC News is the reported target of a White House smear campaign after broadcasting a story on plummeting U.S. troop morale in Iraq, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
Published reports suggest the Bush administration retaliated by notifying Internet news sites and other media outlets that Jeffrey Kofman is not only Canadian but also an openly “gay” man.
A headline on Matt Drudge’s website Wednesday evening read: ”ABC News correspondent who filed troop complaints story is openly gay, Canadian.”
Drudge also provided a link to a profile of Kofman in The Advocate, a gay-issues magazine.
Despite White House denials, Drudge told the Washington Post he received a phone call from the White House
communications department tipping him off to the information on Kofman, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Critics of Kofman’s report seized upon the Drudge headline and pointed to the reporters nationality as an explanation for why he would file “unpatriotic” reports from Iraq, according to the Citizen.
ABC’s Jeffrey Kofman (photo: Ottawa Citizen)
Kofman filed a report on ABC World News Tonight on Tuesday noting that morale among U.S. troops stationed in Iraq is plunging. Several of the interviewed soldiers complained about the war and the length of time they’ve spent in Iraq.
One U.S. soldier, upset about having his tour of duty extended indefinitely, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign.
After the report aired, the Pentagon said the soldiers who had spoken out would be disciplined.
”None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the Secretary of Defense or the President of the United States,” General John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central
Command, told ABC News.
The television network stood by the report.
”This is a reporter who has done an outstanding job for us, his report was fair and accurate and reflected the truth of what soldiers are feeling,” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told the Citizen.
The White House dismissed the reports of a smear campaign against Kofman. Several media reports quoted a spokesman as saying ”this is the first we’ve heard of it, and it would be totally
inappropriate if true.”
”When you take a job in the United States in the public eye, that goes with the territory,” Kofman told the Globe and Mail. ”I tried to hide the Canadian-ness. I guess the old O-U-T word caught up with me.”
Kofman says he’s willing to believe the White House denial of involvement in the incident.
”I’m going to take the White House at face value and accept the comments that they made, which is that this is the first that they’ve heard of it and if it did happen then it was totally inappropriate,” he told the Toronto paper.
The negative publicity generated by Kofman’s report isn’t a first for ABC News.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the network was the target of an e-mail campaign by critics of its decision to forbid on-air reporters from wearing lapel pins with U.S. flags on them, says the Citizen.