Fake news: A case study, cont’d

In “Fake news: A case study,” I cited and quoted Lee Smith’s Weekly Standard column reporting on the resignation of Rumana Ahamed from the NSC staff. Ahmed claimed in a well publicized piece for the Atlantic to have resigned in protest from the staff of the NSC as a matter of principled opposition to President Trump.

Smith called out Ahmed and the Atlantic for promulgating fake news. The Atlantic took issue with Smith’s piece in “A note about Rumana Ahmed.” In the note the Atlantic focused on the details of Ahmed’s job status. The Standard has now appended this editor’s note to Smith’s story:

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned further details to this story since we first published it Monday. Rumana Ahmed, who had worked in the Obama administration as a senior assistant to National Security Council Deputy Director Ben Rhodes, had generated controversy just days before when she wrote an article for the Atlantic declaring that she had resigned from the subsequent Trump administration as a matter of conscience. THE WEEKLY STANDARD described how, in fact, it would have been standard procedure during an administration changeover for NSC staff with policy-making responsibilities in their portfolios such as Ahmed to leave, but that Ahmed had maneuvered to stay in a new job temporarily, which she then used as a platform for her subsequent and dramatic resignation.

Since the story was published White House sources disclosed additional information to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “Ahmed requested to stay on until she found a new job,” Victoria Coates, currently Senior Director for Strategic Communications at the NSC, said Wednesday. “The NSC agreed to this request, her title was adjusted from Senior Assistant to Executive Assistant, and a space was found for her in an administrative position. She informed NSC Human Resources by email she would be leaving March 31, then later emailed to say that she would be leaving by the end of February. She in fact left one month earlier.”

THE WEEKLY STANDARD previously quoted White House sources claiming that Ahmed had worked as a political appointee in the Obama administration and then had her status changed to civil service. In fact she had been a schedule A hire for a two-year contract. THE WEEKLY STANDARD regrets the error.

In short, Ahmed said she wanted to stay on until she found another job. That appears to be what happened. When Ahmed resigned, she appears not to have quit in protest on the spot, but rather to have announced her departure well in advance. Except for the correction at the end of the editor’s note, Smith got it right. The premise of Ahmed’s article is false. The Weekly Standard editor’s note supports and amplifies Smith’s original point.


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