'Inflammatory' Pat Robertson, 'Charismatic' Hugo Chavez

August 24th, 2005 1:48 PM
Pat Robertson is predictably lambasted in the New York Times for suggesting the U.S. "go ahead" and assassinate Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez

Reporter Laurie Goodstein opens with a loaded rundown of Robertson's greatest hits before getting to the newest controversy: "Pat Robertson, the conservative Christian broadcaster, has attracted attention over the ears for lambasting feminists, 'activist' judges, the United Nations and Disneyland."

She helpfully reminds us: "Mr. Robertson, who is 75, ran for president as a Republican in 1988. He has often used his show and the political advocacy group he founded, the Christian Coalition, to support President Bush."

Goodstein is trying to tie Robertson to Bush. But how close are they? A Google search of "Pat Robertson" and "Bush" finds that the story involving the two men that last interested the media was pre-election controversy between them over casualties in Iraq.

She also tries to tie more conservative groups to Robertson's remarks: "But other conservative Christian organizations remained silent, with leaders at the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition saying they were too busy to comment."

In the initial "continuous news desk" version of Goodstein's story, the sentence that comes next at least provides some labeling balance: "Liberals, however, were not silent."

Both versions go on to say: "The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for the Federal Communications Commission to investigate, just as it did when Janet Jackson's breast was exposed in the Super Bowl broadcast in 2004. 'This is even more threatening to hemispheric stability than the flash of a breast on television during a ballgame,' Mr. Jackson said. One liberal watchdog group, Media Matters for America, sent a letter urging the ABC Family network to stop carrying Mr. Robertson's show. Another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, asked Mr. Bush to repudiate Mr. Robertson personally."

Yet that short sentence ("Liberals, however, were not silent.") is absent from the hard copy of the New York late edition. Perhaps the Times really needed those five words worth of white space for a larger photo of Robertson.

If the Times is hostile toward Robertson, its attitude toward the Venezuelan dictator Chavez himself is rather more congenial. Reporter Juan Forero noted approvingly in June that Chavez gets "the kind of public adoration that brings to mind another Latin American leader, Fidel Castro, who for more than 45 years has drawn accolades wherever he has gone, much to Washington's chagrin. Now, it seems, the torch is being passed, and it is Mr. Chávez who is emerging as this generation's Castro -- a charismatic figure and self-styled revolutionary who bearhugs his counterparts on state visits, inspires populist left-wing movements and draws out fervent well-wishers from Havana to Buenos Aires."

Go to TimesWatch for more details of the NYT's slanted Robertson coverage.