Julian Assange’s Petard
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
One of the things one won’t find The New York Sun doing is sneering at the tabloids. Our print edition may have been, when it was issued, solidly broadsheet, but if there is a newspaper that more thoroughly enjoys the tabloids and their competition, we haven’t read it. And a long newspaper life has taught us to be wary of those who trash the tabloids — a thought that is brought to mind by the epithet that was hurled by Julian Assange at the reporter of ABC News who had the temerity to ask operator of Wikileaks about the particulars of the rape charges that have been handed up against him at Sweden.
Mr. Assange had already turned his back and was walking away from ABC’s reporter when he issued his insult over his shoulder. He’d taken offense at the reporter for asking about the charge that Mr. Assange had forcibly spread the legs of one of the two women who have accused him. “Oh, come on,” Mr. Assange interrupted as the question was posed. He turned and walked away. He stopped to have his microphone removed. Then he strode off, but not before calling out over his shoulder “tabloid schmuck.”
The questions the ABC reporter was asking were the sort of thing any good reporter would ask — and, indeed, were the subject the following morning of a long and detailed account in the New York Times, a broadsheet, and the Guardian, a Berliner. The way the Times characterized the disclosures is that the “details in the police report and dozens of interviews in recent months with people in Sweden linked to the case suggest that the Swedish case could be less flawed than Mr. Assange’s supporters have claimed.”
The Times also reported that the police report “provides support for a claim made by Mr. Assange’s supporters that the women involved seemed willing to continue their friendships with Mr. Assange after what they described as sexual misbehavior.” All of which suggests that this is why one has courts of law, to sort out these kinds of claims, which is what the extradition case against him is all about.
Instead, the leak of the Swedish police report has ignited protests from none other than Mr. Assange’s own lawyer. One of Mr. Assange’s supporters was quoted in the Australian newspaper as saying there has been “a selective smear through the disclosure of material.” It also quoted Mr. Assange’s lawyer in Sweden, Bjorn Hurtig, as saying he would ask authorities in Sweden to investigate how the police report was leaked. “Hoist by his own petard,” the Australian quoted one observer as commenting.
Certainly it would be hard to imagine a richer irony — the founder of a Web site dedicated to the leaking of classified government documents protesting the leak of a confidential police report. Explaining its own decision to publish the police report, the Guardian issued an editorial characterizing as “wrong” the notion that the allegations against Mr. Assange “are simply a conspiracy or smear should go unexamined.” So now we have an autophagy of the leakers in which what Mr. Assange calls “tabloid schmucks” are the least of his problems.