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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui Defends Her Anonymous Sources

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HH: Right now, I’m joined by Sabrina Siddiqui, first time on the program from the Huffington Post. Sabrina, welcome, it’s great to have you on.

SS: Thanks for having me on.

HH: You are a Wildcat. You are a Medill School graduate.

SS: Yeah, I am. I graduated in 2008.

HH: And so my friend, Guy P. Benson is also, as is Del Quentin Wilbur. I always like to have the Mildcats on. I hope you’re not going to be too disappointed when Ohio State crushes your purple-clad team this weekend.

SS: We’ve gotten used to it. It’s expected.

HH: That’s good. That’s good. You’re resigned to your fate. Now first time on, I always like to get my journalists centered on the political map somewhere. And I gather you’re a lefty. You’re working at Huffington Post. Are you pro-choie?

SS: Well, I don’t really want to answer that. I thought I’d be talking about Ted Cruz.

HH: Oh, I’m going to, but my audience always likes to know a little bit about the journalist. I just run down the list of quick issues.

SS: You run down the list of sort of lefty ideals, and then ask, do a multiple choice?

HH: Yeah, just say pro-choice, pro-life. Which one?

SS: Pro-choice.

HH: Okay. Are you pro-gun control?

SS: Well, it depends on what we’re talking about. There’s a lot of different measures out there, and I believe some would be more effective than others, but I don’t think that unanimously, they’d all be effective.

HH: All right, did you vote for Obama this last time?

SS: Well, I definitely cannot talk about the vote for Obama. I think I might get fired.

HH: Come on. Oh, you’re kidding.

SS: So I’d rather not go…

HH: Everybody tells me who they vote for.

SS: Do they?

HH: I voted for Romney. Yes.

SS: I have not been allowed to discuss my vote in presidential races, so in order to save my paycheck, I would…

HH: All right, all right, that’s fine. I know Arianna pretty damn well. I knew Arianna four Ariannas ago. So I know Arianna really well. Do you know who Alger Hiss is?

SS: No.

HH: You don’t?

SS: I did see the write-up of your interview with Karen Finney, though.

HH: Oh, I know, but do you know who he is? This is the problem. I don’t think Karen knew who he was, and I was embarrassing her. Do you agree?

SS: Well, I actually, I mean, I’ll just be honest and admit that I’m not familiar. And so I won’t be hanging up the phone.

HH: No, that’s okay. I wish she’d just said that. If she’d just said I don’t know who he is, I could have said okay, look him up sometime, he’s kind of a big, important dude. Okay, last set of questions, my necessary bookshelf. I always want to know if people have read what I’ve read and think is important. Have you read The Looming Tower?

SS: Yes.

HH: Good for you. What do you think of it?

SS: Well, I would actually like to pose that, well, huh, I will be open and honest about the fact that I am a Muslim-American, and I do like to kind of read a lot about sort of investigative pieces on al Qaeda, and certainly looking back at 9/11. You know, I’m not, I don’t have a critical take on the book in particular, other than I thought that it was an incredibly interesting read, obviously was awarded with a Pulitzer, too, so…

HH: You have gone up way in my estimate, Sabrina. How about The Outpost by Jake Tapper? Have you read that?

SS: Okay, I do like Jake Tapper as a reporter. I’ll be honest. I have not read his book.

HH: Okay. That’s okay. It’s not a trick question.

SS: I have heard wonderful things about his book.

HH: It’s not a trick question. How about The Forever War by Dexter Filkins?

SS: No.

HH: Nuclear Jihadist by Doug Frantz, Catherine Collins?

SS: No, but are you recommending any of these?

HH: Oh, I recommend these all.

SS: Because I do have a reading list that’s growing, and I will add them.

HH: I have a reading list at I always like to see, you’ve already passed the most important test with The Looming Tower. How about Dreams And Shadows by Robin Wright?

SS: No.

HH: All right, I’ll leave it off at that. Here’s my question for you about your article, Ted Cruz – Liberal Hero May Have Just Bailed Out Washington On The Shutdown Crisis. In it, you quote one GOP operative, number one, number two, quipped one senior House Republican leadership source, and number three, another senior House GOP aide was grateful. So three anonymous sources in about a ten paragraph story.

SS: Okay.

HH: No one on the record. Why should we believe you? And it’s an honest question. Why should we believe you? And what does it matter if whiny House aides with no future, no profile and no influence complain about a dynamo like Ted Cruz?

SS: I think that it’s perfectly acceptable to say that aides should go on the record, and we would of course much rather aides go on the record. I think that the media at large, and the Huffington Post also accepts these anonymous quotes, but the media at large is allowed aides both on Capitol Hill as well as officials at the White House to get away with almost never having to go on the record when they want to speak openly or freely about a policy matter or internal politics and infighting within their party. I’m not surprised, of course, that senior leadership aides would not be able, willing or able to go on record criticizing Senator Cruz.

HH: They’re cowards.

SS: And I think he…

HH: Aren’t they cowards?

SS: I think his response was pretty great. I think his response was something about how he commended their courage.

HH: But Sabrina, aren’t they cowards if they won’t put their name on a quote critical of Ted Cruz? Are you interviewing cowards and enabling cowards?

SS: I do think that you’re enabling people to not have to publicly reveal themselves, and to be able to criticize without having to, yes, of course. You are enabling it if you publish it in your story. At the same time, we’d like to get their take, and we’d rather have their take than no take at all.

HH: Come back next week, Sabrina, for a longer talk. But don’t enable cowards.

End of interview.


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