When long-time conservative New York Times op-ed columnist William Safire announced in the fall of 2004 that he would be retiring in early 2005, it was assumed that the Times would replace him with a conservative. Observers presumed that one voice from the right -- David Brooks, previously a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, who joined the Times op-ed roster in 2003 -- would not be enough. The paper did not disappoint, announcing in March that Times reporter John Tierney had been named "an Op-Ed page columnist" and noting that Tierney's appointment "comes a month after William Safire ended his op-ed column after 32 years." In making its selection, had the Times checked with Media Matters for America, we would have reminded the paper of some of the numerous instances (see this, this, and this) of Tierney's misrepresentation of facts or reliance on sources articulating only one side of a controversial issue.
Tierney wrote his first op-ed column on April 12, and has since written seven more. We at Media Matters support intellectual diversity on the Times' editorial pages, but we remain puzzled that the paper thought it needed both Tierney and Brooks writing on its op-ed page:
Brooks on President Bush's Social Security proposal, May 8: Democrats have been hectoring President Bush in the manner of an overripe Fourth of July orator. ... Over the past few weeks, the president has called their bluff.
Tierney on President Bush's Social Security proposal, April 30: Democrats have good reason to be aghast at President Bush's new proposal for Social Security. Someone has finally called their bluff.
Brooks on thin people dying sooner, April 24: People who work out, eat responsibly and deserve to live are more likely to be culled by the Thin Reaper.
I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Since I read about this report a few days ago, I haven't been able to stop grinning.
Tierney on thin people dying sooner, April 23: For those of us lacking six-pack abs, this week's report that the overweight live longer is the greatest medical news in history.
Brooks and Tierney seem to share very similar views about how liberal coastal elites regard red-state Bush voters with contempt and incomprehension, to their own political detriment:
Brooks, November 6, 2004: If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?
Tierney, May 3, 2005: If you live in a blue-state stronghold, a coastal city where you can go 24 hours without meeting any Republicans, it's consoling to think of the red staters as an alien bunch of strait-laced Bible thumpers.
Otherwise, how do you explain why they're Republican? Or answer the question Democrats asked in astonishment when they saw Mr. Bush's vote totals: Who are these people?
The favorite Democratic explanation is that the red staters are hicks who have been blinded by righteousness...
Brooks and Tierney share another distinction. They are the only two New York Times staff members to cite eugenicist-defender Steve Sailer as a source. Brooks did so in a December 7 column touting a purported "spiritual" movement of people he called "natalists," who, he claimed, vote Republican and are responsible for the population increases in the fastest-growing regions in the country. Tierney, in an October 24 column, reported Sailer's conclusion that Bush has a higher IQ than Sen. John Kerry. Media Matters wrote that Brooks ignored key data in formulating his thesis. Tierney obtained validation for Sailer's thesis by citing University of Delaware "IQ expert" Linda Gottfredson, herself a controversial figure whose research has received financial support from the Pioneer Fund, an organization designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its support over the years of the work of white supremacists, eugenicists, and others dedicated to proving the existence of genetic differences between races. Sailer has written in defense of both Gottfredson and the Pioneer Fund. Tierney provided no background on either Sailer or Gottfredson.