John Bolton stands accused of nonsexual harassment (rudeness or crudeness, in plain English) by a woman named Melody Townsel. She says Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chased her through the halls of a Moscow hotel a decade ago when she was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government.
Does it matter that Townsel is a liberal Democrat and founder of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush? Maybe not. Even anti-Bush liberals can find themselves pursued through Russian hotels by rapidly moving Republicans. But it matters a lot that most news outlets withheld her partisan connections in reporting the story. Time magazine, United Press International, and four newspapers, USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, and the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, reported the information about Mothers Opposing Bush. But according to a computer search Thursday, apart from the conservative press and a couple of in-groupy Washington newsletters like Hotline and the Frontrunner, that was it in the print media. Fox News carried the story on TV. If the major networks and the other cable channels mentioned it, the search engine failed to pick it up.
Obvious point: When judging the credibility of controversial people in the news, readers and viewers deserve a fair account of their background and affiliations. If the issue is politics, we certainly need to know their political leanings. In the Townsel case, that didn't happen.
Another example is the story of Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian journalist kidnapped in Iraq. Sgrena was released after a ransom was reportedly paid, then was fired on by American troops as her car traveled to the Baghdad airport. An Italian intelligence agent in the vehicle was killed by the gunfire. The American soldiers said the vehicle was moving at a high speed and failed to respond to warning shots at a checkpoint. Sgrena said that her vehicle was moving slowly and that there was no checkpoint. She suggested she might have been deliberately targeted by Americans because the United States does not like negotiating with the insurgents. She said: "The Americans are against this type of operation. For them, war is war; human life doesn't count for much."