Kurt Eichenwald Explains

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kurt Eichenwald’s reporting on the internet and child pornography in the New York Times garnered much attention, including a visit to this show in January 2006. It also raised questions about where the lines lie when the journalist is also an advocate. He recently spoke to NPR media reporter David Folkenflik about some of the issues that affected his judgment and recollection.


Kurt Eichenwald and David Folkenflik

Comments [8]

Debbie Nathan from New York City

I was not invited on Brian Lehrer's show. I have since complained to him and asked for a meeting. I'm waiting for a response.

David Folkenflik -- who has since said he worked on the Eichenwald story for six months! -- called me about a week before he aired his first NPR piece, on October 19. When he called he said he'd never heard of an 11,000-word piece I'd written back in April 2007 for Counterpunch. I had to send it to him.

Counterpunch, by the way, spent $10,000 on attorney fees and the entire month of March fielding continual threats by Eichenwald's lawyer to sue if my work were published. When it finally came out, I was not sued, nor did Eichenwald ever point out any errors.

Readers can download my piece by going to my blog,, and scrolling to the October 31 entry. Click there on "The World of Justin Berry."

Readers should also see David France's long article on Eichenwald, in the November 5 issue of New York Magazine (it's online).

David France didn't appear on Brian Lehrer's show, either.

The oversimplifications and downright mistruths in Lehrer's Eichenwald/Folkenflik show are astounding. This is a complicated story; it's unbelievable that the show promoted nothing but a cartoon version.

Debbie Nathan

Oct. 31 2007 08:30 PM
JCL from California

This show’s segment on Kurt Eichenwald wasn’t softball it was nurf ball. Neither Mr. Lehrer nor Mr. Folkenflik challenged the fact that Kurt Eichenwald modifies his story every time new facts arise which contradict what he has previously said.

The simple and undeniable facts are that Justin Berry had been out of the Internet porn business for over six months when he was “discovered” by Eichenwald. This is verified by Berry’s own testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Between June 6, 2005 and June 14, 2005 Eichenwald transmitted thousands of dollars to Berry. On June 19, 2005 Berry reactivated his dormant Internet porn site and went back into the Internet porn business. This is verified by the Third Superseding Indictment against Aaron Brown (a public document), one of Berry’s business associates, which quotes verbatim an e-mail that Berry sent out that day announcing his return to Internet porn.

Every time Eichenwald discusses the matter he is deliberately vague as to dates in order to make it appear that Berry was actively engaged in Internet porn at the time that Eichenwald “discovered” him. This allows Eichenwald to claim that he saved Berry from a horrible fate. Eichenwald refuses to explain - or even to admit - that Berry, in fact, do not go back into the Internet porn business until after he received Eichenwald’s money.

Oct. 31 2007 02:36 PM
cs from Manhattan

I was incredibly disappointed in this segment. I'm usually able to have a sense of the full story from your segments, even if I'm putting different views or pieces of the puzzle together. I can't believe that Eichenwald was allowed to state that he did not anticipate memory loss being a problem for a journalist, without challenge. I also agree with the reservations by others above. Finally, it would have been so easy to get Debbie Nathan onto the show-- Did you try? I'd be curious to hear her side of the story. This segment made me seriously question NPR's neutrality on NPR-related topics.

Oct. 30 2007 09:46 PM
david from brooklyn

Kurt Eichenwald's fierce defense of his professional reputation suggests that he had professional rather than personal motives when reaching out to rescue someone involved in child pornography. At any rate, I'm not sure if such a distinction matters: whether or not the rescue was a personal venture, the effort turned in to a feature article for the Times, for which he was paid.

I'm disappointed that Brian chose not to pursue Eichenwald's rationale, and its inherent contradiction. I also wonder whether questions from the audience were allowed when the writer came on the show the first time to promote the content of his article? If so, it seems it would have only been fair that the same occur when the writer returned to the show to respond to "attacks" on his journalistic ethics.

The whole thing begs the question: do we want journalists to focus on doing good, or doing truth? And should they pay to receive the truth?

Oct. 29 2007 11:46 PM
NG from New York City

It's astonishing how twice now you've allowed this man to appear on your network and admit there are payments far more than the three thousand plus than what what originally disclosed and not call him on it.

How much of a financial contribution did Eichy make to WNYC, Brian?

Oct. 29 2007 08:10 PM
John Reuter from Sandpoint, ID

Kurt Eichenwald is a hero/journalist. Did he do everything absolutely right in his reporting? It seems not. Was he biased? Absolutely. But I'll accept the imperfections to finally have a story this important out in the open. His fault, if any, is feeling too deeply about his subject - which, in this case, who can blame him?

Oct. 29 2007 05:31 PM
Bob Kinkead from Montville, NJ 07045

The Eichenwald interview was a softball. I could list a dozen obvious questions that beg answers. You asked none. You gave a journalist an easy pass. Time constraints are no excuse. I've heard Brian ask much harder questions in much shorter segments. I am a former journalist and am extremely suspicious of any newsman who pays for a story. Fumbling a story like this is a journalistic crime. Don't do the crime if you don't have the time.

Oct. 29 2007 03:30 PM
robert from park slope

How does this compare to Nicholas Kristof's involvement with some of his subjects in Africa and Asia?

Oct. 29 2007 11:20 AM

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