John Leo

 Few news outlets reported all of the following facts, which surely bear on her probable credibility: She strongly opposed the American invasion, she identifies with the resistance to the United States in Iraq, she works for a Communist paper, and she is a Communist herself. Many media outlets reported that her employer, Il Manifesto, is a Communist paper. Her anti-Americanism was more rarely noticed, and the fact that she is a Communist was almost always omitted. According to a computer search, the New York Times didn't use the "C" word at all in the Sgrena case, referring to Il Manifesto as a "leftist" daily. This is correct, I suppose, in the same sense that a Nazi paper could be called a "rightist" weekly.

 The Times was even more skittish about using the "C" word in covering the big antiwar demonstration in New York in February of 2003. The leader and chief organizer of the demonstration, Leslie Cagan, was a prominent, old-time Communist who left the party only in 1991 and only because it went through an ideological split. She has been described in the New York Sun, a conservative paper, as "a longtime unapologetic Communist who has remained one of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's most tireless supporters." In the Times, however, she was merely "one of the grandes dames of the country's progressive movement." Laudatory semibiographical treatment of Cagan in the Times's "Public Lives" column had no room to mention her Communist past.

 In the Washington Post, Cagan was "a professional dove in the day of the hawk." The Post managed to mention that the conservative magazine Insight called her "a Marxist agitator" with "roots in old Soviet . . . agitprop," but only to assure us that Cagan is big enough to ignore this sort of thing (she "shakes off such criticism as the wages of organizing").

 In 2002, the Times based its estimate of civilian deaths in Afghanistan on numbers provided by Global Exchange, "an American organization." It would have been more honest to say that Global Exchange is an antiglobalization, antiwar group. Many liberal groups often go unlabeled in the media, as if they were somehow unbiased and uncommitted. Among them are the Sentencing Project, the Justice Policy Institute, and September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Right-wing groups that sometimes evade labeling are rarer, but they include the Landmark Legal Foundation and the American Council on Science and Health. More accuracy in labeling, please.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

Be the first to read John Leo's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.