Imagine reading an article that began like this: "The New York Times has been rocked by reports that its coverage of the 2008 election has been sorely compromised by an alleged homosexual relationship between executive editor Bill Keller and liberal columnist Paul Krugman.
"Waves of anxiety have swept through Times staffers who have been concerned about Krugman routinely showing up by Keller's side. Convinced that the relationship had become romantic, some senior staff at the paper have been trying to keep the two apart. These staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they warned Keller not to keep his office door closed especially when Krugman was inside.
"Concerns that Krugman's strong support for the Democrats have shaped New York Times coverage of the upcoming election underscore a paradox. The newspaper is widely suspected of tailoring its news coverage to support its political ideology--'all the news that fits'--even though the Times likes to portray itself as objective: 'all the news that's fit to print.'
"Both Keller and Krugman have denied the allegations although such denials are to be expected in such situations. Now some staffers are worried that Keller's coverage of the election may be influenced by his feelings for Krugman. 'We're worried that Krugman is threatening to break it off,' one reporter noted, 'if Keller doesn't give favorable treatment to his candidate and stick it to the Republicans.'"
Incredible? Absurd? Actually, this fictitious article is very, very similar to the actual article that the New York Times ran on John McCain. The key phrases in my made-up account are directly lifted from the Times' actual account. In that story, the newspaper alleged that McCain was having an affair with a 40-year-old lobbyist, naming her as Vicki Iseman. The Times also suggested that McCain gave special treatment to Iseman's clients.
What evidence that the newspaper produce for these explosive allegations? None, and this is after months of investigation by a whole team of reporters. It cited unnamed McCain staffers who said they had become concerned about appearances of impropriety. (None alleged any actual impropriety.) It cited two former McCain staffers who were by their own admission disenchanted with McCain, although even they refused to give their names.
Stung by criticism that followed this irresponsible piece, Keller told the public editor of The Times, "If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, we'd have owed readers more compelling evidence than the conviction of senior staff members. But that was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that his close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career."
I can testify from personal experience that this sort of weasel-behavior is entirely in keeping with the way the New York Times does business. Note that in the episode that follows I am giving actual names and not citing any anonymous sources.
Several years ago one of the paper's leading reporters Fox Butterfield did an article on The Dartmouth Review, which I edited as an undergraduate in the early 1980s. Seeking to discredit me, Butterfield quoted me as having written in the paper, "The question is not whether women should be educated at Dartmouth. The question is whether women should be educated at all."
A witty line, perhaps, only I didn't write it. The line was actually written by another student, Keeney Jones. When I called Butterfield to point this out, the man insisted, "No, you wrote it." So I demanded, "Where did I write it?" Butterfield pointed out that I had written an article about the Dartmouth Review in another magazine where I had quoted the line. I protested, "But I was merely citing controversial lines that had appeared in the student paper. How can you say I wrote that line when I made it very clear that Jones wrote it?"
To this Butterfield responded, "But by quoting it you have made it your line." I was dumbstruck. The best I could say to him was, "And I guess that since you have now quoted the line yourself, it has now become your line." The important point here is that we are dealing not with some dimwit but with a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for America's leading newspaper. Yet apparently such dishonesty is the way they operate at the Times.
Some critics have been calling for Keller to be fired but I suspect that a much wider fumigation is required to clean house over there. The Times has long become a liberal rag and as incidents like these pile up, more and more people will recognize that the New York Times is no longer the great newspaper it once was.
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