Safire's possible successors tainted by patterns of misinformation

››› ››› GABE WILDAU

In an article published in the November 29 issue of New York magazine, contributor Kate Pickert named several conservatives under consideration to succeed New York Times columnist William Safire, who is retiring in early 2005. David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, Christopher Caldwell, Richard Brookhiser, Fred Barnes, Robert Kagan, and John Tierney were the candidates Pickert named. Several of these candidates have long records of introducing falsehoods and misinformation into the media bloodstream.

Pickert named Tierney "the most-often-fingered candidate." Media Matters for America and others have documented several instances of Tierney's dubious journalism, including citing conservatives with clear agendas as seemingly objective. MMFA has also documented numerous lies and distortions by Krauthammer, who writes a syndicated column for The Washington Post, a monthly column for TIME magazine, and is a FOX News Channel contributor; and Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and a FOX News Channel contributor:

John Tierney

In a widely discussed and controversial 1996 article in The New York Times Magazine titled "Recycling is Garbage," Tierney argued that recycling discarded items is often a wasteful, useless enterprise. But Tierney relied almost entirely on experts from conservative foundations -- including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and the Waste Policy Center -- that receive funding directly from industries with a financial stake in opposing recycling initiatives, as a lengthy rebuttal by the Environmental Defense Fund pointed out. (The National Resources Defense Council published an even lengthier defense of recycling following Tierney's article.)

Paul Starr, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, noted in a 2000 article that Tierney, in a December 8, 1999, column, uncritically repeated a bogus statistic about the supposedly massive amounts of money that the "poverty industry" wastes each year. "[T]he poverty industry consists of 500,000 workers handling $130 billion in antipoverty money," Tierney said, citing Heritage Foundation vice president Stuart Butler. But when The American Prospect asked Butler how he calculated the figure, he could provide no definition of the "poverty industry" and admitted, "It wasn't a state-of-the-art computer analysis."

More recently, MMFA noted that in an October 17 column, Tierney supported his claim that "the young George W. Bush probably had a higher I.Q. than did the young John Kerry" by citing a professor whose work has been funded by white supremacists.

As MMFA also noted, Tierney declared that Kerry's statement that in order to establish the necessity and legitimacy of preemptive military action, a president must meet a "global test where your countrymen ... understand fully why you're doing what you're doing" was a "gift" for Bush. Tierney ignored the fact that what benefit Bush gained from Kerry's statement was mainly the result of Bush's distortions of what Kerry said (with plenty of help from the media). For example, Bush told the National Association of Home Builders that Kerry "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions."

Charles Krauthammer

Fred Barnes

Krauthammer and Barnes misinformation tag team

Safire himself has been a source of unsupported statements, distortions, and falsehoods, as MMFA has documented.

In her article on Safire's potential successors, Pickert quoted syndicated columnist Cal Thomas expressing hope that the Times will choose a conservative who emphasizes moral values. "It would be a wonderful thing if [chairman of The New York Times Company and New York Times publisher Arthur O.] Sulzberger [Jr.] reached out and said, 'We get it'," Thomas told Pickert. Thomas followed up on this comment by naming the Times "the best newspaper in the country" on the November 27 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX News Watch, where Thomas is a regular panelist. But such praise for the Times contrasts with Thomas's long history of criticizing the paper on FOX News Watch and elsewhere. Even Pickert noted that Thomas has "publicly disparaged the Times."

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