We love the New York Times. That said, we also enjoy pointing out their shortcomings. Why is it so much fun to pick on the God of Media, to knock the New York Times down a notch or two? Maybe it has something to do with that self-important, morally righteous, Old Testament voice that booms off the editorial page with nary a doubt; or the way they recoil when someone has the audacity to challenge the Word of God. As John Kerry might say, who among us doesn’t derive some pleasure in watching their top executives and editors resort to the dreadful “no comment” when it is their ass on the line. In those moments you see how thin their skin really is.
Even the New York Times‘ own David Carr has acknowledged this much:
“The news media often fail to turn the X-ray machine on themselves because, in part, journalists assign a nobility to the profession that obscures the flaws within it. We think of ourselves as doing the People’s work, and write off lapses in ethics and practices as potholes on the way to a Greater Truth.”
Like the New York Yankees, the New York Times swings for the fences. And admittedly, over the years it’s amassed big power numbers. But when it’s missed, it’s missed big. A few examples:
5. The Whitewater Scandal
On March 8, 1992, the New York Times published an article by investigative reporter Jeff Gerth. The headline said, “Clintons Joined S&L Operator in an Ozark Real Estate Venture.” That venture later became known as Whitewater.
In his book on Whitewater, newspaper columnist Gene Lyons said the Clintons were part of a smear campaign in which the Times had published “facts” that were “highly dubious and demonstrably false.” For his part, Gerth says his first article on Whitewater was accurate before his editors at the Times, unbeknownst to him, rewrote the piece and saddled it with factual errors.
4. Dr. Wen Ho Lee
An American scientist who was railroaded by New York Times reporters, who accused him of providing nuclear secrets to the People’s Republic of China. According to Salon.com, said reporters “relied on slim evidence, quick conclusions and loyalty to sources with an ax to grind.”
“The stunning public turnaround suddenly drew attention to the fact that the entire premise of the New York Times’ early news reports and strident editorials — proclaiming that a Chinese-American scientist inside Los Alamos had given away nuclear secrets that had dramatically helped China improve its arsenal, and that the Clinton administration could have stopped it but chose not to — had turned out to be flat wrong.”
3. Walter Duranty and Ukranian Mass Murders
The Times’ star foreign correspondent Walter Duranty, who in 1932 received a Pulitzer Prize for “dispassionate, interpretive reporting of the news from Russia,” was accused of intentionally covering up the millions of Ukranians who starved to death or were murdered by Josef Stalin’s regime.
2. Judith Miller, Weapons of Mass Destruction/Invasion of Iraq
As Salon.com noted:
“She was hyping bullshit stories about Iraq’s WMD capabilities as far back as 1998, and in the run-up to the war, her front-page scoops were cited by the Bush administration as evidence that Saddam needed to be taken out, right away… Lying exile grifter Ahmad Chalabi fed her the worst of the nonsense designed to push America into toppling Saddam Hussein (and giving Iraq to him), and she pushed that nonsense into the newspaper of record. She got everything wrong.”
1. The Holocaust
In her book, “Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper,” journalism professor Laurel Leff asserted:
“The Times deliberately de-emphasized the Holocaust news, reporting it in isolated, inside stories. The few hundred words about the Nazi genocide the Times published every couple days were hard to find amidst a million other words in the newspaper. Times readers could legitimately have claimed not to have known, or at least not to have understood, what was happening to the Jews…It partly explains the general apathy and inaction that greeted the news of the Holocaust. We do not know how many Jews might have been saved had the Times acted differently. We do know, however, that the possibilities for rescue were never truly tested.”
The Bay of Pigs Invasion.
According to Walter Cronkite, a New York Times reporter had stumbled upon it, but kept it under the lid out of national security concerns:
.“…even President Kennedy himself later regretted it. He said, ‘If the New York Times had printed that, perhaps we would never have gone to the Bay of Pigs.’ They did not, however; they yielded to the appeal to patriotism to not print it.”
He was a rising star at the New York Times until, in 2003, the paper discovered he had plagiarized or fabricated dozens of articles. The Times called the scandal “a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”
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