Thursday, November 10, 2005

Funny Stories About Judy

A long piece in today's Style section of the WP features the now retired Judith Miller. Judy is remembered here by many as a difficult person.

Her long suffering ex-colleagues detail some incidents which must have been infuriating to them at the time, but are revealing about her true nature:

Colleagues in the region recall her as hypercompetitive, sometimes disturbingly so.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, who was Middle East regional correspondent for the Times for 10 years beginning in 1986, says Miller tried to steal an interview he'd scheduled in the mid-1980s with Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Egyptian foreign ministry official who would later become United Nations secretary general.

As Ibrahim recalls it, Miller told him she was "intercepting" the Boutros-Ghali interview, that she had seniority, says Ibrahim, who left the Times in 1999.

They shouted at each other, he says. He is not even sure who hung up on whom. In the end, Ibrahim got his interview -- without Miller present.


Adam Clymer, retired political correspondent for the Times, recalls an episode during the 1988 presidential campaign, when Miller was deputy Washington bureau chief.

Then the political editor based in New York, Clymer was awakened just after midnight one morning by a call from Miller, he says. She was demanding that a story about Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis be pulled from the paper.

The story was too soft, she complained -- and said Lee Atwater, the political strategist for Vice President George H.W. Bush, believed it was soft as well. Clymer said he was stunned to realize that Atwater apparently had either seen the story or been told about it before publication. He and Miller argued, he recalls, and he ultimately hung up on her, twice.

To Clymer, it was an indication of what he and others believe is Miller's main problem.

"She had gotten too close to her sources," he says.

This final bit is a real gut-buster:

As a Times reporter, Miller's reputation both preceded and lingered after her -- as a colleague discovered one day in 2001 when he was reporting at the Afghan foreign ministry in Kabul.

Officials there didn't speak great English, and there was much back and forth, until the reporter uttered the words "New York Times," which the officials understood. They started shouting at the reporter, "Do you know Judy Miller? Do you know Judy Miller?"

Turns out, these officials had been on the receiving end of Miller's aggressive reporting when she traveled in Afghanistan in search of al Qaeda training camps.

"This Judy Miller! She was so pushy and she was demanding and pressing us to take her to those al Qaeda camps but we couldn't go and she told us we were covering up" and on and on, the Afghanis yelled at Miller's amused colleague that day. And he was duly impressed. (He requested anonymity to avoid being drawn into the controversy.)

Ho ho ho.


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