May 19, 2005, - 9:18 pm

Will the Real News Fabricator Please Stand Up?

By Debbie Schlussel

The Detroit News and its star reporter, David Shepardson, got caught with their pants down.  They ran a fake story.

But no-one noticed.  No-one, except me—which lead to Detroit News Editor and Publisher Mark Silverman and his minions racing to hush the story and bury it, looking for some silent way to cover-up their very large, very exposed rears.

They printed Shepardson’s phony story about a terrorist, and I exposed it, last week.  Shepardson ran with it, without even a modicum of fact-checking (easily done with a quick phone call to local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman, Greg Palmore).

But no-one noticed.

The rest of Detroit and America’s journalism community was obsessed with other false information, some more innocuous and all less deliberate and agenda-infused.

First, there was the Detroit Free Press, competitor to The Detroit News (and partner in its joint operating agreement).  Star columnist, sportswriter, author, and radio host Albom was caught in April, writing about basketball players who said they’d attend their alma mater’s game in the NCAA playoffs.  They didn’t show up, and Albom’s pre-written, rushed column ended up being wrong.

The hysteria to lynch the very successful, media-ubiquitous Albom was incredible.  But a Free Press investigation was done, and Albom was cleared—after a near-anal exam investigation showed no other falsehoods, but some unattributed and altered quotes.

Some Free Press reporters and a whole lot of other journalists around the country are angry at what they call “the Mitch Albom treatment.”  They claim he got off easy.

Unfortunately, the biggest gloaters are the rival Detroit News and its own fabricator, star reporter David Shepardson.  Incredibly, there was no “Mitch Albom treatment,” no apology to readers, no suspension, or anything else for Shepardson.    No negative treatment for Shepardson—even though, according to Homeland Security/ICE spokesman Palmore, the false story I exposed is only one of several fabricated by Shepardson and run in the News.  (Palmore declined repeated requests to identify the other Shepardson stories he alleges were fakes.)

In fact, at posting time for this column, Shepardson’s phony article remains on the News’ website, minus any retraction or correction—more than a week after I exposed the hoax (though, I’m sure, as soon as this column wends its way to The Detroit News, they will get around to it.)

Instead and incredibly, Shepardson is the AUTHOR(!) of an article critical of Albom and of the Free Press investigation of him.  The irony is Camryn Manheim thick.  It’s like having John Gotti write an article claiming Al Capone was a mobster.

But that didn’t stop fabricator Shepardson from writing this about Albom:

“The issue matters to more than those who work in the downtown Detroit office that houses both The Detroit News and the Free Press. At a time when public trust in the media is low, credibility is a treasured commodity.”


Again, where is the News’ investigation of Shepardson?  Don’t hold your breath.  Instead, Shepardson quotes Detroit News Editor and Publisher Silverman pontificating about a News’ “ethics policy” for reporters—one that apparently either doesn’t apply to Shepardson or doesn’t proscribe fake stories.  Nice.

Then, there is Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, whose source on alleged Koran toilet-flushing at Guantanamo Bay suddenly retracted—after publication.  I know Isikoff.  Full disclosure:  about a month ago, he bought me dinner.  But the underwhelming salmon didn’t buy my high opinion of him.  Isikoff is a skilled, conscientious journalist, whose devotion to getting the story right is matched by few.  I know of big-time stories he wanted to write but didn’t for that reason.  Others, like his Monica Lewinsky story, were iced by Clintonista editors.

To blame Isikoff for the reaction of the Muslim world to the now-false story is absurd.  Non-Muslim Bibles, houses of worship, and other religious icons are destroyed in the Muslim world every day—all without a wimper from us in the West and without an Isikoff story as purported impetus.

Remember Joseph’s Tomb, destroyed by Palestinians?  How about the Al Aqsa Mosque—desecratingly built on top of the holiest site in Judaism, the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem?  Remember the Omayyad Masjid—the Damascus, Syria mosque where Pope John Paul II famously took his shoes off and kneeled?  Forcibly “upgraded” from a church.

In “response” to Isikoff’s article, HAMAS rioted and protested in Gaza.  Because everyone knows that, but for a Michael Isikoff article,  HAMAS has always been a peaceful ladies’ afternoon tea-fest.  They never engage in violent activity.  Puh-leeze.  Instead of self-flagellating about “why ‘they’ hate us,” it’s time we ask why we tolerate and pander to them.

Finally, there is Jack Lessenberry of Detroit’s Metro Times.  Every major city has a Metro Times (MT)—a free, far-left, “pimp-and-ho” paper, so named for its main source of ad revenue (“White bi-female seeking Lacto-ovo equally bizarro for erotic polo”).  MT is up in arms about Mitch Albom, too—echoing the News’ critique of the Free Press investigation.  Ditto for MT’s star wacko-left columnist, Lessenberry.

Problem is, just like David Shepardson, Lessenberry fabricated.  And just like Shepardson, his fabrications were far worse than Albom’s, because they relate to the War on Terror.

Ismael Ahmed, chief of Islamic welfare agency ACCESS (which has strong terror ties), blames me for losing his bid to become University of Michigan Regent.  In his zeal to pander to Ahmed and attack me, Lessenberry described Ahmed’s Army “hitch in Vietnam” to show that Ahmed is a “A Real American” and defame me as a “vulgar . . . creature” who tells “lies.”  Lessenberry again presented Ahmed’s lie as fact in another column:  “He enlisted and was sent to Vietnam”.

Problem is, Lessenberry and Ahmed made it up.  (It’s a lie Ahmed’s lawyer, Shereef Akeel, repeated in a threatening letter, trying to silence me.)

If Ismael Ahmed ever went to Vietnam, it was as a tourist.  His military record shows his service was mostly spent at Fort Knox—perhaps bravely guarding the gold.  At least Dan Rather “tried” to verify the details of Bush’s military service (and HE was forced to resign).

The fabricated Vietnam record is bad enough.  But Lessenberry also plagiarized unverifiable quotes against me from a “progressive” website, presenting them as his own work.

Incredibly, Lessenberry is a journalism professor at Wayne State University, where his course must be entitled, “Do as I say, NOT as I do 101.”

Whose work deserves real concern—Mitch Albom and Michael Isikoff, whose mistakes were not deliberate (and one was about basketball)?  Or others, who lie about important issues regarding terrorism—aiding and abetting those on the wrong side?

David Shepardson, The Detroit News, and Jack Lessenberry:  POT. KETTLE.  BLACK.

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