Pope Benedict XVI served his final day as pontiff on Thursday, and the New York Times' Rome bureau chief Rachel Donadio sent him on his way from Vatican City under a dark cloud: "As Pope Departs, Discord Remains at Vatican."
As the sun set on Rome and on his turbulent eight-year papacy, Pope Benedict XVI, a shy theologian who never seemed entirely at home in the limelight, was whisked by helicopter into retirement on Thursday.
But while Benedict, 85, retires to a life of prayer, study, walks in the garden and piano practice, he leaves in his wake a Vatican hierarchy facing scandals and intrigue that are casting a shadow over the cardinals entrusted with electing his successor in a conclave this month.
The New York Times finally noticed what Washington has obsessed over the last few days -- the dust-up between veteran Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward and the Obama White House over an email from a White House aide (apparently Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council) who emailedhis disagreement with Woodward's characterization that the White House had moved the goalposts regarding the sequester: "I think you will regret staking out that claim."
Woodward told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he considered that a veiled threat. Yet his fellow journalists at the Times (as opposed to "conservatives") have now followed most of the mainstream media in taking the side of the government.
In "G.O.P.'s Ideological Split Appears in Virginia Governor's Race," New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel saw a controversial candidate on one side of the Virginia governor's race -- Republican candidate Kenneth Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general, who has support in the Tea Party and social conservative wings of the party.
His likely Democratic opponent? Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and controversial fundraiser for the Clinton administration. But judging by the paper's lack of coverage so far, only Republicans have a problem. Gabriel doesn't even mention Democrat McAuliffe until paragraph 12, and in an odd omission, calls him only "a businessman and former political operative."
Spinning the sequester in the New York Times. After weeks of cringing over the supposedly damaging federal cuts due to take effect tomorrow (even as the public shrugs them off) Jonathan Weisman made an 180-degree turn on the front of Thursday's paper: "Parties Focus On the Positive As Cuts Near." The text box: "An onerous possibility turns out to be not quite so onerous."
Suddenly the Times is seeing a win-win-win situation, for liberals, conservatives, and the White House.
He sympathetically profiled a couple living in Idaho, a state they consider backward: "For them, the battle for rights and recognition is to be waged here at home, in a deeply conservative state where same-sex marriage remains, for now, an unlikely dream."
Federal government spending often falls after recessions and wars, but the current round of cuts in investment and spending on goods and services is unusually deep. Combined with cuts by state and local governments, the drop in government’s contribution to economic growth is the largest in more than 50 years.
A recent cover story in The New York Times Magazine offers a shocking exposé of Big Food. In granular detail it relates the food conglomerates' "hyper-engineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for 'stomach share.'” If you don't have the time to slog through the nearly 10,000 words, though, here's the big news in this shocking, horrifying, and incredibly alarming story.
The New York Times sent reporters scurrying around the country to deliver Tuesday's dire dose of sequestration fear -- a full page (with photos) of impending cuts to a range of federal programs starting Friday. Lead reporter Michael Cooper set the groaning board:
The owner of a Missouri smokehouse that makes beef jerky is worried about a slowdown in food safety inspections. A Montana school district is drawing up a list of teachers who could face layoffs. Officials at an Arizona border station fear that lines to cross the border could lengthen. And if Olympic National Park in Washington cannot hire enough workers to plow backcountry trails, they may stay closed until the snow melts in July.
Normally, NewsBusters does not criticize editorials. However, on ocassion, one comes across one that is simply too full of myths and false statements that an exception has to be made to the rule.
On Friday, The New York Times published an editorial examining sequestration and taxes. The editorial was loaded with inaccuracies, misleading statements, and significant lacks of clarification. Below are nine corrections the editorial staff should make:
Reporting on former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination to serve Obama as secretary of defense, the New York Times' Jeremy Peterstried to imply as he has before that the Republican move to filibuster Hagel, who bombed in hearings, was both uncollegial and unprecedented.
But Peters had to stretch in his Tuesday piece, limiting his examples to the narrow fact that Hagel is the first secretary of defense nominee to be threatened with a filibuster (ignoring the many other Republican nominees filibustered by Democrats, as well as the Democrats' outright rejection of Republican nominee John Tower in 1989).
She may not have walked the red carpet, but Michelle Obama -- all bangs and biceps and bling -- had her own star turn during Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony, when she announced the winner for best picture via satellite from the White House.
It's hard to imagine that Nicholas Confessore and his editors at the overwhelmingly Obama-friendly New York Times were just making things up when he reported over the weekend in a Page A1 story that the Obama campaign's Organizing For America operation, now "rebooted" as the supposedly independent Organizing For Action, "will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors ... whose influence on political campaigns Mr. Obama once deplored," granting them quarterly access to the Obama if they raise $500,000 or more.
According to Charlie Spiering at the Washington Examiner, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked about the story, in Spiering's words, "asserted that OFA was an 'independent organization' that just happened to support the president’s policy agenda," "refused to address the New York Times reporting," and "ended the press briefing as reporters were still asking questions and fled the podium." If the late Tony Snow had done this while serving as press secretary under George W. Bush, we'd be seeing a continuous loop of the walkout on network TV all day long. The key paragraphs from the Times story, the reaction of MSNBC's Chuck Todd follow the jump, and the Associated Press's non-denial denial firewall follow the jump.
Times personal finance reporter Tara Siegel Barnard would love the U.S. to embrace Europe's cradle-to-grave safety net mind-set, lumping America with apparently inferior countries like Liberia, Suriname and Papua New Guinea for the sin of not offering paid maternity leave. Barnard made the argument in Saturday's Business section, in her first column since returning from maternity leave, "In Paid Family Leave, U.S. Trails Most of the Globe."
Over the weekend the New York Times painted the $85 billion in budget cuts that will start kicking in Friday – known in Washington-speak as sequestration -- in dramatic terms, falsely heralding a new age of "government austerity" (since when?) and passing along stories of budget-cut fear-mongering from the state level.
In the aftermath of the Oscars, New York Times fashion reporter Eric Wilson bizarrely documented an example of "feminine repression" on the red carpet in Monday's arts section. Almost as silly was a Critics' Notebook from the painfully political movie review duo Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, who delivered the shocking news that Hollywood movies are less than historically reliable, while comparing Obama to President Lincoln.
Worse than a hurricane? New York Times reporter Matthew Wald went a bit overboard in his Friday story on possible delays at airports because of the budget cuts due to take effect next week, known as the sequester: "Spending Cuts Threaten Delays In Air Travel."
Friday's lead editorial encapsulates the liberal mindset that drives the New York Times: "Why Taxes Have to Go Up." And not just on the rich -- the Times argues that the rich must pay more first in order to build "consensus" for raising taxes on the middle class as well. In Times-land, there is no such thing as a spending problem, only a failure to sufficiently raise taxes on everyone.
The Times' Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear credited Scott for the embrace of Obama-care (via "proponents" who "say that doing so will not only save lives, but also create jobs and stimulate the economy") and also found a convenient "moral dimension" in the call by Catholic bishops to expand the Medicaid program, a dimension the paper never found when the Church was opposing the Obama-care requirement that religion institutions provide contraception coverage.
The New York Times is engaging in defense of scandal-plagued Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, accused of influence peddling in his suspicious relationship with Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, who flew Menendez to the Dominican Republic on his private plane. Menendez intervened on Melgen's behalf in two Medicare disputes.
Last Sunday the paper very strangely chided a conservative group, the National Legal and Policy Center, for its part in exposing the Menendez scandal (even though the Times itself collaborated with the group, using its data to write its February 1 front-page story on the Menendez accusations). As if to make up for helping put the story (somewhat) into the mainstream press, the front of Thursday's edition featured a sympathetic profile of Menendez by reporters Raymond Hernandez and Sam Dolnick, "Amid Questions About Ethics, Battle-Tested Senator Digs In." The Times gave more space to supporters who suggest the whole thing is a smear job.
Basking in the campaign-like trappings of Obama's White House press conference, reporter Jackie Calmes repeated in Wednesday's New York Times, the president's horror stories on the purportedly deep impact of mandatory budget cuts, known as the "sequester," that are scheduled to hit March 1: "Obama Tries to Turn Up Pressure on Republicans as Cutbacks Near." The cuts amount to an estimated $85 billion this year out of a $3,600 billion dollar budget, but Calmes pushed the pain of Obama having to deal with recalcitrant Republicans:
"Days away from another fiscal crisis and with Congress on vacation, President Obama began marshaling the powers of the presidency on Tuesday to try to shame Republicans into a compromise that could avoid further self-inflicted job losses and damage to the fragile recovery," she wrote. "But so far, Republicans were declining to engage."
On the front of Saturday's Business section, New York Times economics reporter Annie Lowrey flatteringly quoted unlabeled left-wing French economist Emmanuel Saez, who may be the Times' favorite economist, in yet another hang-wringer on the evils of income inequality and the dreaded 1%: "Incomes Flat In Recovery, But Not For the 1%."
In an October 2012 article Lowrey termed Saez, who favors huge tax hikes on the rich in the name of fighting inequality, a "respected economist." On Saturday she further beefed up Saez's resume to assuage any doubt among her readers, calling him "a winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, an economic laurel considered second only to the Nobel."
New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel promoted movie star and aspiring liberal politician Ashley Judd on Saturday: "Kentuckians Don’t Rule Out a Star as a Senator." Gabriel wrote: "How serious could such a candidacy be? Plenty, it turns out."
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "fabricating" hypocrite. Her Sunday column about the lack of veracity in the current crop of award-nominated movies, "The Oscar for Best Fabrication," has some interesting revelations on the true history behind the stories of "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Lincoln."
But Dowd is the last person to credibly comment on the subject, given her own history (item #3) of fabricating quotes, in the form of leaving out vital words from her May 14, 2003 column on President Bush's pursuit of the Taliban – a tale broken on Times Watch. Dowd wrote on Sunday:
Republicans, beware "help" from the New York Times. Robert Draper, a contributing writer to the magazine, threw four "far right" and two "extreme" labels into his 6,500-word profile of several young conservatives looking to revamp the Republican Party for the 21 century: "The Late Adopters." The cover introduced the story: "G.O.P. Smartphone – Can young, tech-savvy Republicans overthrow their party's disconnected old guard?"
The article is actually worth reading for its informative nuggets on how far the GOP trailed the Obama campaign in social media outreach. But Draper readily nods along to the assumptions that the GOP is both technologically and ideologically out of touch and will have to give up its opposition to gay marriage and soft-pedal abortion.
Newly minted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party politician, is "raising bipartisan hackles" and otherwise being a "bad boy" in the previously collegial U.S. Senate, opined political reporter Jonathan Weisman on the front page of Saturday's New York Times: "Texas Senator Goes on Attack And Raises Bipartisan Hackles."
Clearly disturbed about Cruz's treatment of Obama's nominee for defense secretary Chuck Hagel, reporter Weisman even put a mike in front of not one but two liberal Democratic senators who likened Cruz to notorious Sen. Joe McCarthy. Well, at least Cruz is liked by what Weisman called "ardent conservatives."
While reluctantly admitting the seriousness of the charges involving Menendez's relationship with Florida donor Dr. Salamon Melgen, Lipton suggested the partisan, shadowy origin of the charges weighed against them. The caption to a photo of a lonesome Menendez set the tone: "Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said a partisan conspiracy focused the news media on him before his re-election." Would a conservative politician enveloped in scandal be covered from such a sympathy-inducing angle?
Jesse L. Jackson Jr. was indicted on Friday, February 15, the final day before a three-day weekend, even though the information necessary to indict appears to have been in place for some time. Though it may be out there and I'm certainly willing to stand corrected, from what I can tell, the U.S. Department of Justice made no formal announcement when it filed its charges (10-page PDF). Based on the 12:55 p.m. ET time stamp at a Politico story reporting what "the government will allege" and the 1:03 p.m. Pacific Time (i.e., 4:03 p.m. ET) of what appears to have been the first breaking news story from the Associated Press, the government appears to have waited until well into the afternoon to file its charges.
The reporting on Jackson's indictment mostly deferred identifying his party affiliation for several paragraphs, and in some instances, including the aforementioned AP breaking news item, omitted it entirely.
Mark Thompson, the New York Times Co. chief executive, was director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation when a BBC news program into a massive child-sex abuse scandal involving veteran network entertainer Jimmy Savile was abruptly squashed. Uncertainty lingers as to just what (and when) Thompson knew about accusations against Savile and the cancellation of the program, questions that occasionally made it into the paper, until a report commissioned by the BBC gave Thompson a pass.
Journalist Maureen Orth has a useful new summary of what we know (and what we still don't know) on the web site of Vanity Fair.
The New York Times ran a front-page story Friday on Maureen O'Connor, the disgraced former mayor of San Diego who lost at least $13 million in casinos over the years, wagering a staggering $1 billion: "Ex-Mayor of San Diego Confronts $1 Billion Gambling Problem." O'Connor, who served between 1986 and 1992, was a rare Democratic mayor in San Diego, but you won't find the word "Democrat" in Jennifer Medina's article.