The Case of Scott Ritter

He makes an appearance in the new Bill Moyers documentary about the press and the war, and Matt flags this quote:

And when I first resigned and spoke out, you know, I was treated as the darling of the right-wing media especially, because it was the time of the Clinton administration. And I was basically Clinton-bashing, or at least that's how they chose to interpret it. When it turned out that I wasn't Clinton-bashing, I was bashing, you know, American policy objectives-- some of which were endorsed by the right wing, the conservative side, I no longer was the darling of the media.

Having been pushed into a corner as a Clinton basher, there are certain elements of the media now that, you know, the analysis put me in another corner, didn't know how to deal with me. So, you're not getting-- the message out. I wrote a book. I made a documentary film. I did everything I could to get the data out there to the public and it wasn't working.

"What can you say?" Matt asks. Well, you can say that Scott Ritter had trouble getting his message out because 1) he took $400,000 from a pro-Saddam Iraqi businessman to fund his documentary film, money that turned out to have been funneled from the Oil-for-Food program, 2) he had been accused of sex crimes about a year before the Iraq War debate started up and 3) the tone of his film, book, articles and testimony tended to be, well, slightly hysterical. (He also insisted repeatedly that he hadn't changed his mind about Iraq when a substantial paper trail suggested that he had, which didn't exactly enhance his credibility on the subject.) Of course Ritter turned out to more right than, well, almost anybody in the world about the state of Saddam's arsenal, but that doesn't change the reality that he was a lousy spokesman for that point of view, especially when he was almost the only person who seemed to hold it. The media didn't marginalize him because he stopped bashing Clinton and started bashing Bush - they marginalized him because everyone who disagreed with him seemed credible, and he didn't. This was a failure on the press's part, sure; as Tim Noah put it once Ritter was vindicated, there's no reason someone couldn't be "wrong on the age of consent" but "right on Iraq." But I'm not sure it's a failure that could have been plausibly avoided.