FOX News Channel managing editor and chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume scoffed at The New York Times for allegedly glorifying late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by labeling Arafat's terrorist acts "spectacular deeds" in its obituary. Hume omitted the context of the phrase, which makes clear that the Times used the word "spectacular" to describe deeds that captured the world's attention by creating a spectacle, albeit a horrifying one. Hume similarly derided the Los Angeles Times obituary for "never once referring to him [Arafat] as a terrorist." But while the Los Angeles Times never specifically labeled Arafat a terrorist, the paper reported that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) committed acts of terrorism under his leadership.
From the "Grapevine" segment of the November 11 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: Yasser Arafat may have been a terrorist noted for the indiscriminate murder of women and children. ... A New York Times obituary noted terrorist acts, but called them, quote, "spectacular deeds." And a front-page story in the L.A. Times calls Arafat a "guerrilla and statesman," never once referring to him as a terrorist.
Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines "spectacular" simply as "striking" or "sensational"; the term does not necessarily convey a positive judgment. In this case, the context shows that The New York Times used "spectacular" to described Arafat's use of so-called "television terrorism" -- terrorist acts "staged" to create a worldwide spectacle.
From The New York Times' November 11 obituary of Arafat:
In the 1960's, he [Arafat] pioneered what became known as "television terrorism" -- air piracy and innovative forms of mayhem staged for maximum propaganda value. Among the more spectacular deeds he ordered was the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1986, a group linked to Mr. Arafat but apparently acting independently seized the Achille Lauro cruise ship and threw overboard an elderly American Jew in a wheelchair.
Similarly, Hume suggested that the Los Angeles Times ignored Arafat's involvement in terrorism. But this is false. From the November 11 obituary in the Los Angeles Times:
Under his leadership, the PLO carried out scores of terrorist attacks, including the hijacking of three commercial airplanes to Jordan in 1970 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the 1972 slayings of 11 Israelis at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. The Black September militia, linked to Fatah [the Arafat-led group that took over the PLO], was responsible for the Munich operation, which earned the Palestinians enduring enmity and for many years made Arafat a pariah in the West. Arafat often claimed that he did not control these radical groups that operated under the PLO umbrella, but it was never clear whether he could not or would not.