The late New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid told his wife to hold the paper responsible if he died, his cousin claimed on Saturday.
Shadid, one of the most lauded foreign correspondents of his generation, died in Syria in February. The Times reported then that he had died of an asthma attack while secretly entering the country.
On Saturday, his cousin Ed Shadid spoke at the annual conference of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. (Comments start at 4:04 in the video above.) Ed Shadid made several grave allegations against the Times. He said that the paper had essentially forced Shadid to make the journey into Syria that killed him. He also said that the accepted story of how Shadid died is inaccurate.
"I think his death is misunderstood and there's a tendency to romanticize it," he said. He referenced Bill Keller, the Times' former editor, who said that Shadid had "understood the basic rule of reporting: always go."
"Commitment and a history of bravery can be exploited by management," Ed Shadid said. He then described what he said had happened between his cousin and Times editors. In December 2011, he said, a security adviser had barred Anthony from going into Syria saying it was too dangerous. After CNN managed to smuggle one of its reporters in, though, Ed Shadid said that the Times "insisted" that Anthony do the same. Other reporters, he said, had expressed "surprise" at this.
(Speaking to Gawker on Monday, Ed said that, when Anthony complained about the physical stress of the journey, Times foreign editor Joseph Kahn told him, "It sounds like you're going to get a lot of exercise on this assignment.")
Ed said that Anthony was having huge fights with his bosses just before he left.
"The phone call the night before he left [for Syria], there was screaming and slamming on the phone in discussions with editors," he said. "The plan started to fall apart ... it was at this time that he called his wife and gave his last haunting directive that if anything happens to me I want the world to know the New York Times killed me."
Ed also challenged the claim that his cousin had died of an asthma attack, and that photographer Tyler Hicks had carried his body across the Syrian border. That "never happened," he said. The two, he continued, had been confronted by a pack of barking dogs.
"Anthony asked, as he was struggling, to stop. Tyler insisted that they continue on and put his arm and around him and continued to move him forward ... Anthony collapsed and was immediately unconscious, in a manner that's really more consistent, I think, with a heart attack."
"With respect, we disagree with Ed Shadid's version of the facts. The Times does not pressure reporters to go into combat zones. Anthony was an experienced, motivated correspondent. He decided whether, how and when to enter Syria, and was told by his editors, including on the day of the trip, that he should not make the trip if he felt it was not advisable for any reason."
Shadid's widow, Nada Bakri, also responded on Twitter on Monday.
"I do not approve of and will not be a part of any public discussion of Anthony's passing," she wrote. "It does nothing but sadden Anthony's children to have to endure repeated public discussion of the circumstances of their father's death."