It's official: The editors of The New York Times have no shame. Don't take my word for it. Listen to the Times' own ombudsman, Byron Calame.
On Sunday, Calame wrote a stunning column debunking an April 9 New York Times Magazine cover story on abortion in El Salvador. The sensational piece by freelance writer Jack Hitt alleged that women there had been thrown in prison for 30-year terms for having had abortions. Hitt described his visit to one of them, inmate Carmen Climaco. "She is now 26 years old, four years into her 30-year sentence" for aborting an 18-week-old fetus, Hitt reported.
The magazine featured heart-rending photos of Climaco's 11-year-old daughter, eyes filled with tears as she clutched a photo of her jailed mom. Cruel. Horrible. Outrageous. And utterly, demonstrably, false.
Climaco had actually been convicted of murder for strangling her newborn baby. This information was uncovered by pro-life groups. Lifesite.net obtained the court documents in Climaco's case and published them on their website in late November. Calame followed up and also independently obtained the documents easily -- records which Hitt didn't bother to try and get for himself to verify the propaganda being fed to him. Reported Calame:
"The care taken in the reporting and editing of this example didn't meet the magazine's normal standards. Although Sarah H. Smith, the magazine's editorial manager, told me that relevant court documents are 'normally' reviewed, Mr. Hitt never checked the 7,600-word ruling in the Climaco case while preparing his story. And Mr. Hitt told me that no editor or fact checker ever asked him if he had checked the court document containing the panel's decision."
Obtaining the public document was as easy as requesting that a stringer for the Times in El Salvador walk into the court building without making any prior arrangements. Which is exactly what Calame did. It took the stringer mere minutes to get the court ruling.
The facts did not fit with Hitt's pro-abortion narrative. Authorities found Climaco's dead baby hidden in a box wrapped in bags under the bed of Mrs. Climaco. Moreover, Lifesite reported, forensic examination showed that it was a full-term normal delivery. The child was breathing at the time of birth. The official cause of death was asphyxia by strangulation.
Hitt's main sources of info came from a pro-abortion group called Ipas. The group would profit from legalized abortion in El Salvador since it peddles abortion vacuum aspirators. Hitt's translator consulted for Ipas, which launched a fund-raising campaign to free Carmen Climaco and bring her to America. Pro-abortion groups recycled Climaco's story, citing the Times' bogus propaganda to scare up opposition to any abortion restrictions here.
The Times' pro-abortion poster child is a woman convicted of infanticide. But the Times, questioned by its own public editor, refuses to acknowledge Jack Hitt's false reporting.
There is "no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts as reported," the editors imperiously told Calame. They refuse to issue a correction, publish an Editors' Note or inform their readers of the ready availability of the court decision that exposes Jack Hitt's deception about the Climaco case.
Calame concluded that "Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect." That's too polite. The Times slung bull and they refuse to clean it up. The Times' Climaco-gate, like the Associated Press' Jamil Hussein-gate and Reuters' fauxtography scandal and CBS's Rathergate, will go down in mainstream history as yet another case of textbook media malpractice.
The next time you hear a New York Times columnist defend the paper's commitment to accuracy, fairness and ethical standards, give them two words: Carmen Climaco. The next time journalism elites wonder why newspaper circulation is plunging, remember: Carmen Climaco. The next time MSM apologists deny liberal bias, ask them rhetorically -- "Atlas Shrugged"-style -- "Who is Carmen Climaco?"