Shame on the National Press Club

Shame on the National Press Club November 30, 2011

In Washington a few weeks ago I went to the National Press Club for the first time. While I was on vacation, the club decided to suspend a reporter for asking tough questions to a Saudi crown prince during a press conference there. Here’s the exchange:

HUSSEINI: There’s been a lot of talk about the legitimacy of the Syrian regime, I want to know what legitimacy your regime has sir. You come before us, representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture detention of activist, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress your own people. What legitimacy does you regime have — other than billions of dollars and weapons? […]

TURKI: After how many years since the establishment of the United States did women get to vote in the United States? Does that mean that before they got the vote that United States was an illegitimate country? According to his definition, obviously. So, until, when was it — 1910 when women got to vote — from 1789 to 1910 United States was illegitimate? This is how you should measure things, by how people recognize their faults and try to overcome them.

HUSSEINI: So are you saying that Arabs are inherently backward?

MODERATOR: Sam, that’s enough — this lady to the right, you’re next.

The NPC then suspended Husseini’s membership, which is an absolute outrage. I was actually considering joining the National Press Club; not anymore. And I don’t care that they reversed their decision — 10 days into a two week suspension. If the National Press Club isn’t going to defend reporters asking tough questions, particularly of a dictator, they are completely useless.

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