Fox's Wallace Highlights NYT's Kennedy v Helms Obit Contrast

On the August 30 Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace seemed to pick up on Clay Waters' NewsBusters item, earlier posted at TimesWatch, pointing out the blatant double standard between the New York Times obituary for conservative Republican Senator Jesse Helms and that of liberal Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy.

Near the end of Sunday's show, Wallace read from the first paragraph from each obituary, with the Kennedy version tagging the liberal Senator as "a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near equal measure, and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate."

By contrast, the Helms version omitted such positive causes as his legislative fight against the tyranny of communism, and instead portrayed his Senate career in a negative light, referring to him as the "Senator with the courtly manner and mossy drawl, who turned his hard-edged conservatism against civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art."

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the August 30, Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE: I also want to talk about the media coverage of Ted Kennedy since his death this week -- not only the amount of it, which was extraordinary, but also the tone of it. And I want to put up the first paragraph of the New York Times story on Ted Kennedy's death. This was the first paragraph this week. "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near equal measure, and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night."

Now, here's the first paragraph of the Times story on the passing of Jesse Helms last year. "Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator with the courtly manner and mossy drawl, who turned his hard-edged conservatism against civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday."

Bill Sammon, I'm sure some people will be offended that I'm even making the comparison between these two men, but that is a striking difference.

BILL SAMMON: It is, and there's two ways to rectify that obvious double standard. One would have been for the New York Times to find something nice to say about Jesse Helms substantively other than his mossy drawl. The other, if you're going to go the -- and I think that's the preferable way to do it, because you want to -- when someone dies, you want to find something nice to say. The other way, if they wanted to be fair, would -- they would have had to put something in the Ted Kennedy lead about Chappaquiddick, about his demagoguery of Robert Bork being, you know, lunch counter America and back alley abortions and all that kind of thing. But they didn't. So either way you do it, it's unfair, and that was a striking example.

WALLACE: Juan, do you think that there's a striking difference in the way those two men were sent off?

JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, I think you should be nice to people at the time of their death in general, no matter what their sins. But, in fact, I think it was good journalism. I think, in fact, if you look at the public impact that Jesse Helms had on the country, it was to stand in opposition to civil rights and all, gay rights and all this. And if you look at the public impact of Ted Kennedy-

WALLACE: But wasn't he for something?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, he was for stopping those things, and that's what the lead said. I don't have any problem with that. And, in fact, Chappaquiddick has been mentioned prominently throughout this whole period.

SAMMON: Not in that lead.

WILLIAMS: Not in the lead, but in the story. It's not like anybody's hiding Ted Kennedy's flaws. We know them.