October 5, 2016
To the Editorial Board of the Washington Post:
This past Friday evening you posted an editorial under “The Post’s View” entitled “Donald Trump is normalizing bigotry.” In this post you utilized my Breitbart column (“WaPo’s Anne Applebaum Embarks on Kremlin-Style Disinformation Offensive Vs. The Anti-Globalist Right”) to give credence to the thesis in your post’s title. The column I posted earlier in the week at Breitbart.com exposed some of the lesser known cross currents (for non-Poles) of recent Polish political history and your columnist’s (Anne Applebaum) connection to the previous government.
As I know the editorial board is aware, Mrs. Applebaum is married to the former Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, whose party was ejected from power in a clean democratic election in 2015. This election resulted in a diametric changing of the Polish political guard and delivered an unprecedented unilateral mandate to govern without coalition to the Law & Justice party for the first time in modern Polish history (I highlight this since your columnist has not). But well before the rotation of parties in government, Mr. Sikorski was dismissed from his ministerial position after it became apparent to all that he too was embroiled in the “Aferatosmowa” hidden tapes scandal that decimated many Civic Platform, Sikorski’s ruling party, careers and reputations and paved the way for the dramatic turnover in government. This is not something Mrs. Applebaum has ever disclosed despite the distinct pertinence this has with regard to covering Poland and especially in writing about the new government whose leading figures’ enmity with Mr. Sikorski’s turfed-out party is well known in political circles. This is in clear violation of this paper’s “Standards and Ethics” as defined in the described “Conflict of Interest,” Section A, opening lines: “This newspaper is pledged to avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest, wherever and whenever possible.” as well as by the final lines of Section A: “We avoid active involvement in any partisan causes- politics, community affairs, social action, demonstrations- that could compromise or seem to compromise our ability to report and edit fairly.” Any columns referencing Poland would need to have Mrs. Applebaum’s detailed marital disclosure to avoid a violation of these statutes. I have not seen any disclosures.
The letter is in response to article in WP: read more
The Association of Polish Journalists (SDP) submitted a complaint to The Washington Post about a biased op-ed on Poland.
An Open Letter to the Editor and Readers of The Washington Post
We wish to express our deep concern about some comments recently published in The Washington Post regarding Poland. Their author, Anne Applebaum, appointed by The Washington Post to comment upon current events in our country, has presented some facts in a way which reflects the point of view of the radical opposition party – Platforma Obywatelska (The Civic Platform).
While we do not call into question Anne Applebaum’s competence as a journalist, we infer from the available evidence that her opinions may have been biased by the fact that she is the wife of Radosław Sikorski, a prominent politician of the aforementioned party (The Civic Platform). We do respect the fact that the Editor has the right to appoint a journalist who is engaged in the affairs he or she relates, even though it may affect the impartiality of the presentation. Although, in our opinion, it is a violation of professional standards, we would abstain from expressing our objections, were it not for the fact that a number of false accusations were presented in the late text, published on 19.09.2016, titled “In Poland, a preview of what Trump could do to America”. Below we quote the most striking fragment from the article:
“Readers familiar with my recent op-eds will know that I am not shy about pointing out Russian plots when I see them. But there is just no evidence of one at Smolensk. Within hours of the crash, Polish forensic experts were on the ground. They immediately obtained the black boxes and transcribed them meticulously. The cockpit tape can be heard online, and it makes the circumstances painfully clear. The president was late; he had planned a live broadcast from Katyn. When Russian air traffic controllers wanted to divert the plane because of heavy fog, he did not agree. The chief of the air force sat in the cockpit during the final minutes of the flight and pushed the pilots to land: “Be bold, you’ll make it,” he told them. According to the official report, written by the country’s top aviation experts, the plane hit a tree, then the ground, and then broke up.”
Let us first clarify some points. First, there were no court experts in Smolensk directly following the disaster. Second, Poles did not participate in examining body parts or in analyzing the flight recorders (black boxes). The Polish representatives were not even allowed to approach them. Poland has only received incomplete copies of the black boxes that were made by the Russians. Third, the Russian air traffic controllers did not suggest at any point that the Polish airplane should land elsewhere. Finally, attempts have been made to maintain that the air force leader, general Błasik, sat in the cockpit at the moment of the disaster. However, the experts who analyzed the flight recordings have denied that the voice registered on the tape was his. Their expertise has not been called into question. The supposition that general Błasik forced the pilots to land despite the weather conditions, is an allegation. So is the so-called “quote” cited by Anne Applebaum – ‘Be bold, you’ll make it.’ The latter is a fake and unsubstantiated quotation.
It is worth noting that the Polish pilot did not intend to land in the first place. His intention was to bring the plane down to the decision altitude. Once he had realized that the weather conditions were not appropriate, he made a decision to go around. His command ‘Go- around’ has been registered and never questioned by anyone, including the Russians. Anne Applebaum’s allegation is particularly outrageous because it attaches the blame to general Błasik, and indirectly also to President Kaczyński, for the disaster and the death of 96 casualties.
Anne Applebaum’s text creates a false and untrue image of the Smolensk disaster. For over four years now more than 100 Polish scientists, unassociated with any political party and unsponsored by any organizations, have conducted independent analyses of the air-crash. The results of their non-profit research are in stark contrast to the official report. The results of scientific investigations, presented at four Smolensk Conferences, can also be found in English on the internet.
One might list a number of other manipulations included in the article. We shall give two further examples. According to Anne Applebaum, the film ‘Smoleńsk’ was concocted in collaboration with the present Polish government. This is not true. In fact, it was filmed at the time when the Civic Platform was ruling the country. It took no less than four years to accomplish the task. It turned out to be an arduous enterprise, financed by private sponsors and supported by money collection held both in the country and in the Polish diaspora abroad. Let us also note at this point that Antoni Macierewicz, the present Polish Minister of Defense, has never suggested that “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” might be true.
We have decided to make our point because Anne Applebaum is not telling the truth. Her article is misleading and, therefore, it misinforms American and world-wide readers of The Washington Post on important matters. In addition, Applebaum’s allegations are unfair and they wrong not only the victims and their families, but also all the people who regard the Smolensk air-crash as a tragic and painful event in Polish history.
On behalf of the Board of the Association of Polish Journalists,