“Christian ministers were enthusiastic at the early private screenings of ‘End of the Spear,’ made by Every Tribe Entertainment, an evangelical film company. But days before the film's premiere, a controversy erupted over the casting of a gay actor that has all but eclipsed the movie and revealed fault lines among evangelicals.”
Banerjee talks to Rev. Jason Janz, who posted comments on sharperiron.org about actor Allen’s gay activism.
Give the Times a little credit for covering, in a mostly straightforward manner, an obscure topic of interest to social conservatives. But in the middle of the story, apropos of nothing, comes this sidelight, apparently meant only to cast the Christian side of the debate as extremist:
“To spotlight his priorities, President Bush invited ordinary people -- a teacher, a physicist, an Afghan politician, the family of a fallen soldier -- to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. But a Democratic congresswoman turned the tables on Mr. Bush by inviting a guest of her own: Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar protester who has dogged Mr. Bush from his Texas ranch to the White House. Ms. Sheehan's presence loomed large in the House chamber, though she was not there. Capitol Police arrested her before the speech began, ejecting her from the gallery after they discovered her wearing an antiwar T-shirt. A police spokeswoman said Ms. Sheehan was charged with unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor.”
The teaser sentence: “The vote is a triumph for President Bush and conservatives who have longed to tilt the balance of the court to the right.”
Stout’s text emphasizes Alito’s conservatism again and again:
“Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has been widely praised for his intellect and integrity but both admired and assailed for his conservative judicial philosophy, was sworn in today as the 110th justice in the history of the Supreme Court. The ceremony, at the Supreme Court, came shortly after Justice Alito was confirmed by a sharply divided Senate, which voted 58 to 42, largely along party lines.”
New York Times reporter James Dao reports Friday on a study suggesting most of New Orleans’ displaced black population may not return, and dips briefly and non-critically into Mayor Ray Nagin’s Martin Luther King day remarks about the future racial makeup of New Orleans. He even leaves off the most controversial part -- Nagin’s incendiary preference for a “chocolate New Orleans.”
“The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is black, told an audience that ‘this city will be a majority African-American city; it's the way God wants it to be.’”
Eric Lipton’s New York Times article on the congressional investigation into the White House’s initial response to Hurricane Katrina suggests that President Bush was foolhardy in thinking New Orleans had dodged the Katrina bullet on Monday, August 29, a day before the levees broke and plunged the city underwater.
“That night, after the storm passed, a report sent to the White House warned of a quarter-mile breach ‘in the levee near the 17th Street Canal’ and that ‘an estimated 2/3 to 75 percent of the city is underwater.’ Yet Mr. Bush and the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, in interviews after the storm hit, said they never expected the levees to be breached. They said that after the storm had passed Monday, they were convinced that the city had survived without catastrophic damage.
The New York Times makes a point to cast the Canadian election as a non-ideological victory for the Conservatives on Wednesday. Canada-based reporter Clifford Krauss marks the country’s groundbreaking election of a Conservative government over a headline seemingly meant to reassure the Times’ timorous liberal readership: “Canada’s Shift: To the Right, Gently – Harper Defeated Liberals More Over Scandals Than Policies.”
Last May, the Canada-based Krauss assumed the liberal view that international treaties and gay marriage laws were signs of political virtue and tolerance: "Canadian cities are among the most ethnically diverse and safest in the world. Canadian tolerance took real form during the past two years with the extension of marriage rights to gays and lesbians in most of the country."
David Boaz of the libertarian Cato Institute spotted an undeniable pattern of media unease in the network and newspaper coverage of the nomination of conservative Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, compared to how those same outlets treated Bill Clinton's 1993 nomination of liberal ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Cato's executive vice president asked rhetorically, in an article last Thursday for Reason Magazine:
"Remember all those news stories in 1993 about how the nomination of former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace conservative Justice Byron White on the United States Supreme Court would 'tilt the balance of the court to the left?' Of course you don't. Because there weren't any. In the past three months, the major media have repeatedly hammered away at the theme that Judge Samuel Alito Jr. would 'shift the Supreme Court to the right' if he replaced retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. According to Lexis/Nexis, major newspapers have used the phrase 'shift the court' 36 times in their Alito coverage. They have referred to the 'balance of the court' 32 times and 'the court's balance' another 15. 'Shift to the right' accounted for another 18 mentions. Major radio and television programs indexed by Lexis/Nexis have used those phrases 63 times.
The Times again looks for holes in the strong U.S. economy, this time on the front page of Sunday’s special Job Market section, in a report by Eduardo Porter, “Pockets of Concern Slow a Strong U.S. Economy.” The caption to an accompanying chart emphasizes “A Weak Jobs Recovery.”
Times readers may find the article’s tone familiar. Here’s Porter from Sunday:
“If you believe most statistics, the national economy is doing quite well. Corporate profits are soaring. Consumer spending and business investment have been growing at a healthy clip. In the third quarter of last year, output expanded at an annual pace of about 4.1 percent. And private-sector economists are expecting growth above 3.5 percent this year. Yet, amid the vim and vigor, there is a weak spot that does not quite mesh with these readings. More than four years since the economy emerged from recession in November of 2001, businesses are still not hiring much. Employment grew by a mere 3.5 million jobs, or 2.7 percent, in 49 months' worth of this economic expansion. Last year, the job market grew by 1.5 percent.”
The NYT's chief political reporter Adam Nagourney was ultra-sensitive to any sign of harsh Republican rhetoric during the 2004 campaign, and he’s no less raw about it a year later, using strong terms to describe Karl Rove’s speech to the Republican National Committee in a front-page story Monday. But what about Howard Dean calling Rove "unpatriotic"?
“With a campaign of high-profile national security events set for the next three days, following Karl Rove's blistering speech to Republicans on Friday, the White House has effectively declared that it views its controversial secret surveillance program not as a political liability but as an asset, a way to attack Democrats and re-establish President Bush's standing after a difficult year.”
Israel-based Steven Erlanger gets page 3 play Friday for his interview with the family of a Palestinian suicide bomber in Nablus (“Into the West Bank Abyss: From Student to Suicide Bomber”).
“Sami Antar, 21, in his second year of physical education studies at An Najah University here, left the apartment at 8 a.m. Thursday. In the afternoon, he blew himself up on behalf of the militant group Islamic Jihad in Tel Aviv, in a zone of shops and restaurants, but killed only himself. About 20 Israelis, ordinary people going about their daily business, were wounded, one of them seriously.”
Next comes Erlanger’s entry for bad metaphor of the year:
No liberal conventional wisdom here! The back page of Sunday’s special Academy Awards section lists the “ideal slate of Oscar candidates” from the top three movie critics at the Times, Manohla Dargis, A.O. Scott and Stephen Holden, each of whom have revealed liberal sympathies in their film critiques.
The only movie that makes all three lists for Best Picture? The GLAAD-approved “Brokeback Mountain,” which tops all three lists, presumably being each critic’s favorite flick.
“Brokeback” actor Heath Ledger also tops each list for Best Actor nominee, and actress Michelle Williams is nominated by the Times trio as Best Supporting Actress. The movie also gets the top nod from all three for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Two days after Sen. Hillary Clinton stood in front of a black church audience on Martin Luther King Day to claim Republicans were running Congress like a “plantation,” the Times devotes a large front-page story to her by Hillary-beat reporter Raymond Hernandez.
Does the Times use the quote as a jumping-off point for an investigation to unmask the liberal agenda behind Clinton’s careful centrist public persona? Does it use the inflammatory remark to round up past controversial statements from Clinton, to suggest she’s not ready for her seemingly inevitable presidential run in 2008?
Not quite. Although a Republican would no doubt get that treatment, the “plantation” controversy is disposed of in a single sentence in “Senator Clinton Makes Her Run While Tiptoeing Around 2008.”
The Times commemorates Martin Luther King day in its usual way, making it a Bush-bashing holiday.
Back in 2004, reporter Jeffrey Gettleman lit into Bush for going to Atlanta to mark the day. Here are some excerpts from his January 15, 2004 report:
"Many of Atlanta's civil-rights leaders are outraged about Mr. Bush's planned visit to commemorate Dr. King's 75th birthday and are using the occasion for protests. Already, they have marched with bullhorns, signs and thumping drums, shouting for the president to stay away....Many demonstrators asked how Mr. Bush, who pushed for war in Iraq, could champion Dr. King, who stood for nonviolent resistance....When President Clinton came in 1996, he received a standing ovation. But this presidential visit will be different. It seems to have lifted the lid on long-simmering anger many blacks feel toward Mr. Bush. Some Bush policies, including tax cuts mainly benefiting those with higher incomes and cutting back on welfare-type programs, have alienated black voters, analysts say."
A Saturday New York Times editorial, “A Home for the Drawing Center,” celebrates the fact that a left-wing museum, originally to be located at Ground Zero, has found a new home in Manhattan, and accuses opponents of the project of opposing free speech.
“The Drawing Center, of course, was once part of other plans to rebuild Lower Manhattan. It was going to inhabit a planned cultural center at ground zero, until, in a memorable spasm of apparently unscripted patriotism, Gov. George Pataki made it impossible for the center to remain. If nothing else, the battle over culture at ground zero made it perfectly clear that Governor Pataki favors free speech, but only if it takes place in another part of town.”
“Mr. Bush spent his brief visit in a meeting with political and business leaders on the edge of the Garden District, the grand neighborhood largely untouched by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, and saw little devastation. He did not go into the city's hardest-hit areas or to Jackson Square, where several hundred girls from the Academy of the Sacred Heart staged a protest demanding stronger levees. Mr. Bush's motorcade did pass some abandoned neighborhoods as it traveled on Interstate 10 into the city.”
“….vital positions at the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration have gone unfilled in recent years, inviting only further laxity on the part of companies that have been allowed to outsource their safety responsibilities to off-site contractors that are not subject to regular federal inspections. And the safety administration, which once maintained rescue experts at regional offices, now has them dispersed across the nation on the theory that they can be summoned fast enough to save lives. Warning signs have abounded in recent years. Yet The [Charleston] Gazette found that a plan begun a decade ago to upgrade the mine rescue program was quietly scuttled by the Bush administration. The pro-company bias of the administration is itself a factor deserving full investigation if the inquiries now being promised are to have any credible effect.”
As MRC colleague Brent Baker reported, former National Security Agency official Russell Tice unveiled himself on ABC News last night as one of the sources for last month’s New York Times scoop on the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program.
Stephen Spruiell at National Review Online predicted something like this last week, asking: “If Tice turns out to be one of the NY Times' anonymous sources for its NSA stories, didn't the Times readers deserve to know that its information came from a potentially unbalanced ex-employee with an ax to grind?”
Spruiell is referring to the fact that Tice lost his job after the NSA revoked his security clearances, citing psychological concerns."
At the top of the lead story for Tuesday's New York Times, reporters Richard Stevenson and Neil Lewis put the onus on Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito to show he’s not “too much of an ideologue.”
“Addressing concerns among Democrats that his past support for conservative positions makes him too much of an ideologue for a seat on the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. began his public drive for confirmation Monday by saying judges should have no agendas or preferred outcomes of their own.”
Later, they make this claim to suggest Alito may find the vote rough going:
“But the biggest difference from the Roberts hearings may have been in the political climate. Since then, Mr. Bush has been weakened by the failed nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, the continued bloodshed in Iraq and the corruption inquiries that have ensnared Republican lobbyists and members of Congress.”
Saturday’s front-page teaser for its Page One business section story by Edmund Andrews and Richard Stevenson (“Bush Cites 2 Million New Jobs in 2005 and Healthy Economy”) is headlined “Jobless Rate Declines But Wages Lag Inflation.”
This continues the Times’ stubborn insistence on putting a negative spin on good economic news, a motif reflected in the paper’s broader coverage.
By contrast, when the job numbers weren’t as impressive, the paper trumpeted the figures not merely in the business section, but in its lead story, as TimesWatch recounted back on August 9, 2004:
“David Leonhardt's lead story Saturday on the latest disappointing job figures is headlined: ‘Slow Job Growth Raises Concerns On U.S. Economy."’ The headline to the online edition is much blunter and more partisan: ‘In Blow to Bush, Only 32,000 Jobs Created in July.’”
The New York Times' California-based correspondent John Broder is usually happy to relay bad news about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Friday’s story from Sacramento doesn’t disappoint: “Humbled Schwarzenegger Apologizes for ’04 Election, and Then Proposes a Centrist Agenda.”
Catch the headline goof? That’s how TimesWatch's hard copy reads. (Online, the year has been corrected to ‘05.) The “election” in question was the ambitious slate of special election ballot measures Schwarzenegger put on a state ballot (and which were rejected last November).
Broder prefers the new “uncharacteristically humble” governor.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized to the voters of California on Thursday night and proposed a series of policies that represent a dramatic return to the political center after an ill-fated lurch to the right last year….In his annual State of the State message, Mr. Schwarzenegger said he had gone against the people's will by sponsoring a costly special election in November that was widely seen as an effort to punish public employees and Democratic lawmakers.”
NYT reporter Adam Nossiter has an eager story about a “very conservative congressman” pushing what Nossiter calls “the ultimate big government solution” for post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans. The headline writers and editors were also wooed by Rep. Richard Baker’s apparent apostasy (“A Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans”), putting the story on Thursday’s front page.
“Representative Richard H. Baker, a Republican from suburban Baton Rouge who derides Democrats for not being sufficiently free-market, is the unlikely champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans -- for a while, at least. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.”
NYT business reporter/columnist Gretchen Morgenson loves corporate scandals, and she rounds up the year’s greatest hits for an illustrated, above-the-fold story, “The Big Winner, Again, Is ‘Scandalot,’” for Sunday’s Business section year-end wrap-up.
“Same stuff, different year. That’s one way to look at 2005, the fourth consecutive year in which corporate chicanery loomed large….Greed was on display throughout 2005 as throngs of executives pocketed pay that was even greater than the previous year’s. To hear them talk, they deserved the amounts because -- are you sitting down? -- they enhanced shareholder value. Never mind that many of their companies’ stocks ended the year lower than where they began it.”
The New York Times evidently sensed a need to respond to last week’s announcement of a Justice Department investigation into who leaked to Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau for their December 16 scoop on surveillance of terror suspects in the U.S.
Wednesday’s editorial, “On the Subject of Leaks”, attempts to explain how one set of leaks (Plame’s identity as a CIA employee) was very bad, possibly criminal, and certainly worthy of investigation, while another set of leaks (uncovering the Bush administration’s surveillance of terror suspects without warrants) was a noble and patriotic deed that shouldn't be questioned. It's rough going for the paper, and basic logic doesn’t fare well either.
Intelligence reporter James Risen co-wrote the Times’ December 16 front-page scoop about government spying on terror suspects in the U.S. without first obtaining search warrants. As was later revealed by Drudge (but not by the Times), the story seemed rather conveniently timed to coincide with his upcoming book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration”).
Risen’s book is out now, and Katie Couric interviewed him for the Today show Tuesday morning, where he said of his many anonymous sources:
“…many of these people had grown up in the environment of knowing that in order to get to listen in on Americans you had to get a court order and they saw something was happening in which that was not being done. That there were, that the courts were being skirted, the Congress, that the laws had not been changed. And they believed that for whatever reason the Bush administration was skirting the law. Now that'll be something that we can all debate about whether or not they did skirt the law? But that was the reason the people came forward. They believed that something was going wrong."
Once again in 2005, the New York Times provided a bounty of material to choose from, whether it was a pattern of biased coverage -- Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan -- or a single bizarrely biased story, like one from Sarah Boxer on a pro-U.S. blog in Iraq.
Here are some samples fromTimesWatch's top 3 examples of the worst from the liberally slanted year of coverage.
#3 Relaying Reckless Leftist Charges Against Pro-U.S. Bloggers in Iraq
Reporter Sarah Boxer achieved instant notoriety in blogging circles for an irresponsibly speculative piece January 18 on a pro-U.S. blog run by Iraqi brothers. Boxer began in a breathless style that probably helped her story garner the top slot of the Arts front page: "When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet. The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit." But her story was rooted entirely in the speculative postings from a far-left group blog called Martini Republic.
New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse's Friday "news analysis" is devoted to Congress departing for its Christmas break amid the usual hectic end-of-session machinations ("A Messy Congressional Finale"). And it's all Republicans' fault.
"In the end, Republicans largely have themselves to blame for the muddled and haphazard finale of the Congressional session....At nearly every crucial turn in recent weeks, it was a group of Republicans, painfully aware of President Bush's decline in popularity, who broke from the White House and the party leadership in the House and Senate and forced concessions in major legislation or stalled it until the bitter end."
The Times has two lame follow-up stories to its supposedly explosive scoop that the Bush administration is eavesdropping, without prior court approval, on people in the U.S. communicating with people abroad with al-Qaeda ties.
First, reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau have a damp squib ("Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls -- Some Exchanges Are Said to Be Purely Domestic") in pursuit of their overhyped story from Friday on domestic terrorist surveillance by the Bush administration.
"A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say. The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact 'international.'"
From promoting the "socially conservative instincts" of Sen. Hillary Clinton to lamenting the lack of gas rationing in support of the Iraq War, there was no shortage of bizarre bias in the New York Times in 2005. To celebrate the year in slant, Times Watch presents a selection of the absolutely most biased quotes from Times reporters and writers.
Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes still has her liberal blinders on, judging by the letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. Responding to an unfavorable review of her book by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Mapes nevertheless credits Alter for being right about the anti-CBS jihad from "the right."
"A thousand times, yes! The bogus questions about typeface used to 'discredit' CBS's Bush/Guard story were a fraud, as Jonathan Alter wrote in reviewing my book, 'Truth and Duty' (Nov. 20). He's also right that the so-called independent panel was a legalistic/ corporate inquisition against the news division I love. I guarantee you that, given the chance, Dick Thornburgh, his firm's lawyers and Lou Boccardi would find even Alter's work sadly lacking. Despite the millions that CBS paid, the panel got a lot wrong and still won't answer for it, just as the president has never explained his aborted military service. CBS panicked over the blog attack and strained to appease the right, whose tactics against us were the same as with Wilson, Plame, Clarke and other administration 'critics.'
Travel caused me to miss Friday's big lead scoop in the New York Times on domestic spying by the National Security Agency ("Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"), but the rest of the blogosphere took the story on from multiple angles, questioning the pieces timing, agenda, even its newsworthiness.
The Times article no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned: