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by Jared Israel
[Posted 19 August 2002]

If you don't know about Reuters' attempt to rewrite what happened at the Firefighters convention, you might want to read "REUTERS TRIES TO 'DISAPPEAR' THEIR OWN DISPATCH ON FIREFIGHTERS' BOYCOTT!" at

Meanwhile, here are some new twists.

Yesterday we received an email from one of our sharp-eyed readers, Angie B. in New York. Angie reports that she just read Peter Szekely's August 16th Reuters dispatch and it (at least now) includes an attempt to explain why delegates voted for the Bush-boycott resolution.

I don't know whether the Szekely piece was changed or whether when I read it I missed this "explanation." My vanity tells me I couldn't have missed something as blatantly dishonest as the stuff Angie spotted, but we all make mistakes. Angie found two paragraphs. In one, Szekely writes:

"Not only did Schaitberger, who also serves on the board of the Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation, declare he would not boycott the ceremony, *he said most delegates voting on the hastily passed motion were unaware that the Oct. 6 event was a memorial and the word 'memorial' was never used in the debate*."
[My emphasis]

Huh? The "word memorial was never used"?

Three things about that.

First, by saying most delegates *didn't know* they were voting to boycott a memorial, Schaitberger is admitting that in fact the resolution *involved boycotting a memorial*! Otherwise what would it mean that most delegates weren't informed?

But this contradicts his argument, quoted earlier, that "some" delegates "may have considered the vote to be an endorsement of a boycott of the memorial service" but that this was a mistaken view of the resolution, one which they held due to "gossip and rumors"!

Which is it? Were "some" delegates fooled by gossip into believing they voted to boycott a memorial? Or did "most" in fact vote to boycott a memorial - but only because they were fooled by not being told it was a memorial? I mean come on, guys! Pick one or the other, but you can't go in two opposite directions at the same time!

Second, how is it possible that the delegates voted for a resolution to boycott a memorial to their fallen comrades without the word "memorial" being used? How would such a resolution be worded?

*Resolved: That the International Association of Fire Fighters recommend its members boycott an event Oct. 6th.*

Wouldn't the delegates be curious to know, "What event?"

And even if we say, for the sake of argument, that the word "memorial" was left out - which is pretty hard to conceive - wouldn't the resolution have to have mentioned "Oct. 6th"? This is important because according to Szekely Oct 6th isn't just any memorial. It is, according to Szekely, the:

"annual tribute to firefighters who died in action in the past year...hosted by the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation." ...[And] Bush spoke at the memorial last year..."

Third, if "most delegates voting on the hastily passed motion were unaware that the Oct. 6 event was a memorial," doesn't that mean a minority *were* aware? So now we have three groups: "Some" who, due to gossip and rumors, mistakenly thought the resolution called for boycotting a memorial; "most," who voted for the resolution because they weren't told it did support boycotting a memorial; and some others who voted for the resolution knowing it did support boycotting a memorial. It's amazing that these Firefighters voted unanimously because it would appear they inhabit different planets.

The other paragraph which Angie spotted and which I may have missed (unless it was added) reads as follows:

"IAFF delegates on Wednesday passed a 'sense of the convention' motion advising Schaitberger to consider boycotting the Oct. 6 event in Washington and to protest Bush's funding decision in other ways as well."

So the boycott resolution involved not only a date but also a location - Washington. Are we still to believe that "many" delegates had no clue they were voting to boycott their own annual memorial?

The point of the paragraph is supposed to be that the delegates weren't really voting to *boycott* - just to advise Schaitberger to "consider" boycotting. But assuming you believe the delegates had to know this was a memorial, doesn't this paragraph further contradict Schaitberger's statement that:

"'We would never *consider* taking any action at this memorial or any other memorial,' he said. 'To suggest that our people would use our own memorial to honor our own -- it's something that could not and would not ever occur.'"

Doesn't recommending a boycott involve just that? (Unless of course the delegates didn't know what they were voting for. They were just advising Schaitberger to consider doing it, whatever it was...)

So now we have:

#1 No Firefighter would ever consider boycotting their own memorial;

#2 Some Firefighters mistakenly thought they had voted to boycott a memorial (contradicts #1) but that's because they were fooled by gossip because the resolution did not involve boycotting a memorial;

#3 The Firefighters did vote for a resolution that urged boycotting the memorial (contradicts #2) but that's because "most" didn't know that the Oct. 6th event was a memorial;

#4 It was just a "sense of the convention" resolution anyway, so it wasn't binding (contradicts #1, unless you believe the delegates voted to recommend doing something unknown.)


- Jared Israel

1) For the August 14th Friess article, go to

2) For the August 16th Szekely article, go to http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=politicsnews&StoryID=1340893


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