WASHINGTON, March 22, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On March 16, 2018, Kristofer Harrison, the self-proclaimed founder and principal of ITJ Strategies, which calls itself "a grassroots PR consultancy," was allowed to publish an article on the "Foreign Policy" website, entitled "Putin Is Poisoning Prague."
But on March 20, "Foreign Policy" (FP) posted a "correction" – deleting a false and defamatory sentence Harrison wrote after an editor from FP called him and he could not could not substantiate with a single fact to support his accusation that the Czech Republic defense manufacturer, Czechoslovak Group (CSG), had at one point incurred a "massive credit" with the First Czech-Russian Bank, known to be a corrupt. To its credit, FP then struck Harrison's false statement from the piece and reposted a corrected version here:
Here is the "correction" posted by Foreign Policy:
"March 20, 2018: An earlier version of this article mistakenly described a financial relationship with the Czechoslovak Group and First Czech-Russian Bank. It also incorrectly stated the relationship between Alexej Baljajev, Vladimir Yanunin, and Vladimir Putin."
The FP included in the revised version this comment from me:
("After publication of this article, CSG offered comment. "Contrary to any innuendo, the fact is CSG orients its business and has significant customers in the West, specifically in Europe and the United States," says Lanny Davis, an attorney representing CSG.)
Finally, FP required Mr. Harrison to disclose two of his clients (unclear whether current or former) one of which might have had an interest in the attack on CSG's making a legal sale of arms to Azerbaijan. But even here, Harrison could not resist misleading the reader. He inserted into the text that the two clients were Armenia and Azerbaijan, preceded by the words, "Full disclosure," as if it was his idea. It wasn't. Then he couldn't resist more spinning – saying that had "independently" done work for "Armenian and Azeri advocacy groups." Does "independently" mean he wasn't paid? Moreover, his false innuendo that there was something wrong with CSG shipping arms to Azerbaijan omitted the fact that such shipments are lawful by any EU company. Given the current tensions between the Armenians and Azeris, the non-disclosure by Mr. Harrison may make sense if he is still carrying water for his current or former client, the Armenians.
Once someone blatantly writes a false and damaging accusation and then is forced to retract it the rest of his assertions can be ignored as not credible. And so, I won't spend the time to rebut all the other innuendo-filled, false, and distorted assertions by Harrison in this article about CSG and others. My only comment to Mr. Harrison is: You can have your own opinions, but you can't make up facts. And you can't do so under U.S. law with reckless disregard for the truth by having no facts to support a libelous statement.
We respectfully request that any media organization that reprinted or digested this piece, whether in the United States or in the Czech Republic, and we know that many did, report the following to correct the record:
- Publish FP's March 20 correction, as quoted above;
- Note the fact that FP determined that Harrison had falsely accused CSG of having prior business or borrowing relationships with the Russian Bank, and he did so without a single fact to support it;
- Publish my comment, as quoted above, that, despite Harrison's false innuendo, CSG has major customers in the west, among NATO countries, and in the U.S.; and
- that Harrison failed to disclose his current or prior clients with possible interest in the article until forced to do so by FP.
This occurrence is more than about Harrison ignoring the need to be truthful and fact-check. It is also an important lesson for all in the media: When a business or individual is attacked by a self-proclaimed expert or consultant on a website, at least take the time to ask the attacked entity for a rebuttal. And be careful about re-publishing too quickly: Just because something is published does not mean that it is true. Reporting and facts still matter.
At a time when there is talk of the Washington D.C. "swamp" of special interests hiding their biases, the Harrison piece is emblematic of the challenge for the media to differentiate truth from misinformation and the always present danger that a writer who appears to have legitimate credentials in fact is a purveyor of – I hate to use this phrase, but it fits here --"fake news."
Media contact: Eva Bandola, 630-956-1776, [email protected]
SOURCE Czechoslovak Group