Fred Fleitz: Slanted fact check whiffs on Ted Cruz Iran inspections claim

One analyst says we blew a recent fact check of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas presidential hopeful (Associated Press photo).
One analyst says we blew a recent fact check of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas presidential hopeful (Associated Press photo).

Last week, we rated False a repeated claim by Ted Cruz, the Republican senator and Texan running for president, that the Iran agreement announced in July trusts Iran to inspect itself for nuclear weapon violations.

After that fact check posted, an expert quoted in the piece said we blew it.

We stand by our work. But we're also sharing here what Fred Fleitz, senior vice president for policy and programs at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy, commented:

Although most of the press coverage by the mainstream media of the nuclear agreement with Iran has tilted toward the Obama administration, one of the most slanted articles I have seen to date is a September 18, 2015 piece by W. Gardner Selby who writes a "PolitiFact" column for the Austin American-Statesman.  

Selby contacted me last week for a column he was writing on the accuracy of a statement made by Sen. Ted Cruz that the Iran deal "trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves."  I spent a lot of time on the phone with Selby about this piece, referred him to sources he needed to read, and emailed him a lot of material.   

I wasted my time.  Selby produced a biased piece that was stacked with liberal experts who disagreed with Cruz.  Selby also included a link to an excerpt of an email exchange with me that omitted my comments criticizing one of his prior columns as inaccurate.

I told Selby Senator Cruz’s statement that the Iran deal trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves is a true statement based on secret side deals to the agreement briefed to members of Congress.  I have spoken to several of these members and they confirmed this.  Selby did not interview any congressmen who received these briefings.   

Instead, Selby built a case against the side deals citing six strong supporters of the arms control agreement who have not been briefed on them.  All of them made specious arguments against reports that Iranians will collect samples under the nuclear pact.  One of them who made the most misleading statements, Tariq Rauf, director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, is a former Soviet spy.  This fact undermines Rauf’s credibility but is not mentioned in Selby’s article.

Selby cited several bland statements by International Atomic Energy Agency officials that they are confident there will be robust verification of the Iran agreement and that the side arrangements "are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices. They do not compromise our safeguards standards in any way."  I explained to Selby it was not a surprise that IAEA officials would say such things because they work for IAEA members and do what the members tell them to do.  I also told Selby that none of the IAEA statements dispute what Senator Cruz said: that Iranians will be trusted to inspect themselves.   

Selby tried to discredit Cruz’s claim about the existence of the secret side deals by saying he cited this from a news story.  I thought this was disingenuous since this news story (by the Associated Press) tracked with a video I urged him to cite of a July 23 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where several senators discuss a classified briefing they received on how Iran will collect its own samples as part of the secret side deals.  I sent him a link to this video.

Selby also ignored a September 1, 2015 Investor’s Business Daily op-ed in which I explained that the secret arrangement allowing Iran to collect its own samples appears to have been initiated by the Obama administration and therefore constitutes national security fraud.  Investor’s Business Daily also wrote about this in a September 2 editorial.  Powerline ran articles on this issue on September 1 and September 7.

These are crucial aspects of this story that Selby apparently ignored because they undermined his pre-cooked conclusion for his article.

What I found most dishonest about Selby’s piece is how he edited an email from me that he included as source link to exclude a comment I made criticizing the accuracy of one of his earlier Politifact columns.  This earlier column claimed another statement made by Senator Cruz on the Iran deal was false.  The parts of this email that Selby excluded are below:

Selby: ALSO: Thanks to your tweet, I’ve attempted to reach Sen. Menendez’s office today (without success so far). The August speech by Menendez that you provided in your tweet shows Menendez said that maybe Iranians will be collecting samples and performing tests at Parchin—it was his speculation. I did not spot any other indication in the speech of other possible self-inspections in the Iran agreement.

Fleitz: -- I sent you the Menendez speech to dispute your Politifact piece today that Cruz incorrectly said the Iran deal will hasten the time to an Iranian nuclear weapons.  This is why Menendez called for the deal to be changed to stop Iran from developing advanced centrifuges.  There are many other experts who believe this.  I recommend you issue a correction to your piece which I believe is inaccurate.

As to Menendez’s position on Iran collecting samples, he had not received classified briefings on this as of July 23.   

I conceded to Selby that Senator Cruz may have left out some caveats in a stump speech that made it sound like Iranians would be doing all of the collection under the nuclear deal.  However, I also stressed that Cruz’s September 15, 2015 National Review article was precise in correctly stating that "in certain circumstances Iran will inspect itself, and report back on the results."  I explained to Selby that these certain circumstances were to collect samples on past nuclear weapons-related work, one of the most important tasks of the nuclear agreement.  Selby could have legitimately criticized Cruz for making some mistakes in his unscripted speech while noting that his National Review article was correct by including all the proper caveats and explanations.   

But this is not what Selby did.  He said Cruz’s statement that the Iran deal "trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves" is false.  He did this by using misleading arguments to discount compelling accounts by several members of Congress and the Associated Press that Iran will collect samples for the IAEA under secret side deals with the IAEA.  He used biased sources to make these arguments, including a former Soviet spy.  Selby also ignored my assessment that the side deals probably are a fraudulent arrangement set up by the Obama administration.  Finally, Selby edited an email from me that he included as a source to exclude my criticism that one of his previous columns was inaccurate and that he should issue a correction.

Selby’s column criticizing Sen.Cruz’s statement on how the Iran deal trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves clearly was false.  I believe this piece was so inaccurate that it is a disservice to the people of Texas and our nation.