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NYT Ran McCain Lie But Not Edwards Truth

From the despicable, mealy-mouthed “public editor” of the DNC’s New York Times:

[AP caption:] The front page of the Thursday Feb. 21, 2008, edition of the New York Times featuring a story about presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, is shown in this photo in New York, Thursday Feb. 21, 2008. McCain denied a romantic relationship with a female telecommunications lobbyist and said a report by the paper suggesting favoritism for her clients is “not true.” (Click to enlarge)

Sometimes, There’s News in the Gutter

By CLARK HOYT
Published: August 9, 2008

THE John Edwards “love child” story finally hit the national news media and made the front page of yesterday’s Times. For weeks, Jay Leno joked about it, the Internet was abuzz, and readers wondered why The Times and most of the mainstream media seemed to be studiously ignoring a story of sex and betrayal involving a former Democratic presidential candidate who remains prominent on the political stage.

They could ignore it no longer when Edwards, who had been running away from reporters for weeks, sat down with ABC News and admitted he had an extra-marital affair and lied repeatedly about it. He denied he fathered Rielle Hunter’s 5-month-old daughter, as the National Enquirer reported in December before the baby was born.

Before Edwards’s admission, The Times never made a serious effort to investigate the story, even as the Enquirer wrote one sensational report after another: a 2:40 a.m. ambush by the tabloid’s reporters at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles after Edwards spent hours in a room with Hunter and her baby; an allegation of $15,000 a month in “hush money;” a grainy “spy photo” of him with a baby.

Murray Bromberg of Bellmore, N.Y., was glad The Times was not touching this seamy business. “I heartily approve,” he said. But everyone else I heard from over the past several weeks was either puzzled or outraged that the newspaper, which carried front-page allegations of a John McCain affair, was ignoring the relationship between Edwards and Hunter. John Boyle of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said, “I hope you will find the time to tell me why this news story is not reported by your paper.” Some readers, like Bert A. Getz Jr. of Winnetka, Ill., were sure they already knew the answer: liberal bias.

I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it. But I think The Times — like The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, major networks and wire services — was far too squeamish about tackling the story. The Times did not want to regurgitate the Enquirer’s reporting without verifying it, which is responsible. But The Times did not try to verify it, beyond a few perfunctory efforts, which I think was wrong. Until the ABC report, only one mainstream news organization, McClatchy newspapers, seemed to be making headway with the story.

Not that it would have been easy. David Perel, the editor of the Enquirer, said, “This is a very hard story to prove, and I think that has frozen people in place.”

It is also the kind of story that The Times seems instinctively to recoil from, just as it ignored such stories in its own backyard as A-Rod and Madonna and Christie Brinkley’s ugly divorce, and played down the “love child” scandal involving New York City’s only Republican congressman, Vito Fossella, earlier this year. But Edwards was different. When the Enquirer first published its allegations, he was a major presidential candidate with a compelling personal story that included a wife of 30 years with incurable breast cancer.

As he told Katie Couric on “60 Minutes” early last year, “I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic, have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation … to look at what kind of human beings each of us are.”

Still, Edwards-Hunter was “classically not a Times-like story,” said Craig Whitney, the standards editor.

Times editors said that when the first Enquirer story appeared and they could not verify it after fairly cursory inquiries, they left it alone. “I’m not going to recycle a supermarket tabloid’s anonymously sourced story,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor. By the time the Enquirer reported on its hotel stakeout, Edwards was no longer a presidential candidate and, according to Times reporting, not even under serious consideration as a running mate to Barack Obama.

“Edwards isn’t a player at the moment,” said Richard Stevenson, who directs the newspaper’s campaign coverage. “There are a lot of big issues facing the country. The two candidates are compelling figures, and we have finite resources.” He said he agreed that Edwards was “fair game for journalism of this sort, but this hasn’t seemed to me to be a high priority for us at this moment.” I spoke with Stevenson and Keller last week before Edwards’s ABC interview.

Keller and Stevenson said it was wrong to equate the McCain and Edwards stories, as so many readers and bloggers have. The editors saw the McCain story as describing a powerful senator’s dealings with lobbyists trying to influence government decisions, including one who anonymous sources believed was having a romantic relationship with him. “Our interest in that story was not in his private romantic life,” Keller said. “It was in his relationship with lobbyists, plural, and that story took many, many weeks of intensive reporting effort.”

I would not have published the allegation of a McCain affair, because The Times did not convincingly establish its truth. I would not have recycled the National Enquirer story, either. But I think it was a mistake for Times editors to turn up their noses and not pursue it. “There was a tendency, fair or not, to dismiss what you read in the National Enquirer,” Keller said. “I know they are sometimes right.” When the Enquirer published its first “love child” report, The Times was going energetically after the McCain story. It should have pursued the other story as well.

Later, after the July confrontation at the Beverly Hilton, some other news organizations made serious efforts to report the story, but not The Times. The Charlotte Observer, a McClatchy newspaper in Edwards’s home state of North Carolina, reported Thursday that because Edwards had been ducking questions about his relationship with Hunter and her child for weeks, he was in danger of being pushed aside as a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Richard Berke, an assistant managing editor, said that The Times has sometimes struggled in an increasingly tabloid news environment to figure out how to deal with such stories. “We are still feeling our way on this,” he said.

Berke said he convened a luncheon of Times editors late last year after controversy in the newsroom over a decision to put an article about Paris Hilton on the front page. Some staffers thought the paper was finally getting with it, while others were embarrassed, he said. Berke said there was a consensus at the luncheon that The Times should “be a little more open and flexible.”

It is a delicate balance to strike for a newspaper like The Times, with a long history of serious purpose and few tabloid instincts.

“We run the risk of looking like we’re totally out of it,” Berke said, “or we’re just like the rest of them — we have no standards.”

Of course it would be quite a step up for the New York Times to get into the gutter.

Lest we forget, this is the selfsame paper that can’t wait to publish national defense secrets that will help our country’s enemies and damage our national security.

(Even when they are revealing programs that editors of The Times themselves demanded.)

And as Mr. Hoyt is forced to acknowledge, this is the selfsame rag that was only too eager to run an entirely unsubstantiated smear about a John McCain affair.

A “gutter” story that somehow ended up on the front page above the fold.

“Edwards isn’t a player at the moment,” said Richard Stevenson, who directs the newspaper’s campaign coverage.

No, that’s why when Mr. Edwards endorsed Obama the New York Times put the story on the front page above the fold.

That’s why Mr. Edwards was on Obama’s VP list. That is why he was slated to be a “featured speaker” at the DNC’s convention.

But no lie is too big for the New York Times.

Indeed, The Times can only dream of achieving the ethical standards of the National Enquirer.

The reporters and editors of the New York Times are nothing but well poisoners who are hell-bent on the destruction of our country and system of government.

In a more just world, or even the US of the WWII era, they would be behind bars or even executed for their near endless instances of treason.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, August 10th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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