Thomas Friedman taking a bribe? No, but... (Update: Thomas Friedman responds)


Update (2012-01-11 15:03:25):
Dear Mr. Medad:
The quote attributed to me by the Egyptian daily is completely mangled. I was asked by an audience member to give my assessment of the liberal''s performance in the Egyptian election. What I actually said, which the reporter, clearly not an English speaker, did not get, was that it was no surprise that the Muslim Brotherhood did so well in this first election because for the last 30 years Mubarak had cleared out all the political space between himself and the Brotherhood so that he was able to come to Washington and say to successive U.S. Presidents that "It is either me or them.'''' I said that what the Egyptian elections produced, for the first time, were legitimate, authentic, liberal, secular, nationalist, progressive alternatives to the Muslim Brotherhood and now the Brotherhood would have to compete with such alternatives -- for the first time. I then said, given the fact that the liberals had only four months to organize their parties and that the Brotherhood had been in politics for 83 years, that I thought the liberals had done amazingly well. By the way, there were many cameras filming all of this, so it is easy enough to verify.
I would also note that this is a point I have made many times before in my writings -- in precisely those words -- that what was missing in Arab politics was a legitimate, progressive alternative to both the official parties and the Islamists. I would also note that in my previous NYT column from I Cairo, I wrote: "...the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Al Nour Party — just crushed the secular liberals, who actually sparked the rebellion here, in the free Egyptian parliamentary elections, winning some 65 percent of the seats. To not be worried about the theocratic, antipluralistic, anti-women’s-rights, xenophobic strands in these Islamist parties is to be recklessly naïve.''''
On bribery, what I said is exactly what I have written in my own column in the New York Times twice before, "Our Congress has become a forum for legalized bribery,'''' which is what I believe and is hardly an original observation. Judging from reports of allegations against senior political figures in Israel that I read about in your own newspaper, Israel''s democracy is suffering from the same problem. I was warning Egyptians that uncontrolled money in politics is what can destroy their infant democracy, that it was eroding our own, and that they had to be very vigilant about this.'''' I was reacting to reports in the press that money from Qatar and Saudi had flowed to Islamist parties, while the liberals were starved for cash. I made no connection to any particular special interest in America. Finally, my one-hour question and answer session at AUC was not something I was paid for.
Mr. Medad, you asked aloud whether I could have said what I was quoted saying? I am glad you asked it aloud. I just wish you had asked me first before publishing this blog on your site. I am in the phone book.
Thomas Friedman




Why should anyone suspect the New York Times'' Tom Friedman of being venal?  Of receiving a bribe?

Why would I even suggest that as that wouldn''t be true?
Well, for one reason, can we believe a nice Jewish boy, smart, knowledgeable, clever and experienced, would believe things that were reported that he said in a lecture Monday at the American University in Cairo (AUC) as follows:
...Friedman said that the Islamist sweeping the vote in the latest parliamentary elections was normal and expected.  "For decades, Egyptians were missing the Arab nationalist, and most importantly, an authentic political alternative during Mubarak''s rule, now they finally found it represented in the 83-year-old Islamist group of the Muslim Brotherhood," Friedman said. "The Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate, authentic, progressive alternative. Only faced by the four-month old liberals, they had to win," he added......"We now have a Congress that’s trying to find a legal framework for bribery, this tells you how money ruined our politics," Friedman explained.

The Muslim Brotherhood is "progressive"?  Is that a typo?  Should that not be "regressive"? 
And by mentioning "bribery", was he, as he did last month, referring to AIPAC ("I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.")?
Or did he not say those things?

Do you believe Friedman said - and believed - those remarks of his? 

He wasn''t talking for the money, was he?  Or was he at $40,000?

Of course I do not believe he took a bribe, even if in the form of a legitimate speaker''s fee.  He did nothing criminal.  But to imply, on the one hand, that Congressmen did take a bribe (for which he apologized and backtracked) while he himself terms the Muslim Brotherhood as "authentic", could raise doubts about Friedman''s intentions.