Why is the NY Times continuing to ignore McCain's "own Bill Ayers"?

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

On October 4, The New York Times published a front-page article about Sen. Barack Obama's association with William Ayers -- at least the 18th Times article this year mentioning that association. But the Times has yet to mention Sen. John McCain's relationship with G. Gordon Liddy. The October 4 article quoted Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman denouncing Obama's association with Ayers but did not note that Chapman has described Liddy as McCain's "own Bill Ayers" and written that "[i]f Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy."

On October 4, The New York Times published a 2,140-word front-page article about Sen. Barack Obama's association with former Weather Underground member William Ayers -- at least the 18th Times article this year mentioning that association. But the Times has yet to mention, let alone devote an entire article to, Sen. John McCain's relationship with radio host and convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. Indeed, in its October 4 article, the Times quoted Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman denouncing Obama's association with Ayers but did not note that Chapman has described Liddy as McCain's "own Bill Ayers" and has written that "[i]f Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy." The Times, moreover, quoted McCain criticizing Obama for his association with Ayers without noting that Chapman has faulted McCain for what Chapman described as McCain's "howling hypocrisy on the subject."

As Media Matters for America has noted, Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain's campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy's radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. An online video labeled "John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07" includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an "old friend." During the segment, McCain praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great," said he was "proud" of Liddy, and said that "it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program."

Additionally, in 1998, Liddy reportedly held a fundraiser at his home for McCain. Liddy was reportedly scheduled to speak at another fundraiser for McCain in 2000. The Charlotte Observer reported on January 23, 2000, that McCain's campaign vouched for Liddy's "character":

His [McCain's] campaign officials said Liddy's character will appeal to many voters because he was following orders from President Nixon and kept silent afterward.

"His (Liddy's) judgment might be in question, but I don't think his character is," said Ed Walker, the York County chairman of McCain's campaign. "He was following orders just like any good soldier, and he didn't tell on anybody. He felt like he was on a mission and kept his silence."

Liddy's 2000 speech was reportedly canceled due to bad weather.

Media Matters has documented that as of September 19, the Times had published 15 news articles and four opinion pieces referencing Obama's ties to Ayers. Since then, in addition to the October 4 article, the Times has published two more articles mentioning the association.

But despite having apparently judged Chapman's opinions on the candidates' controversial associations as being newsworthy, the Times has ignored entirely McCain's relationship with Liddy, according to a search of the Nexis database from January 1 through October 4*.

In his May 4 Tribune column, Chapman wrote:

What McCain didn't mention is that he has his own Bill Ayers -- in the form of G. Gordon Liddy. Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him.

How close are McCain and Liddy? At least as close as Obama and Ayers appear to be. In 1998, Liddy's home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator's campaigns -- including $1,000 this year.

Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as "an old friend," and McCain sounded like one. "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family," he gushed. "It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to break into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly newspaper columnist?

Liddy was in the thick of the biggest political scandal in American history -- and one of the greatest threats to the rule of law. He has said he has no regrets about what he did, insisting that he went to jail as "a prisoner of war."

All this may sound like ancient history. But it's from the same era as the bombings Ayers helped carry out as a member of the Weather Underground. And Liddy's penchant for extreme solutions has not abated.

[...]

Given Liddy's record, it's hard to see why McCain would touch him with a 10-foot pole. On the contrary, he should be returning his donations and shunning his show. Yet the senator shows no qualms about associating with Liddy -- or celebrating his service to their common cause.

How does McCain explain his howling hypocrisy on the subject? He doesn't. I made repeated inquiries to his campaign aides, which they refused to acknowledge, much less answer. On this topic, the pilot of the Straight Talk Express would rather stay parked in the garage.

That's an odd policy for someone who is so forthright about his rival's responsibility. McCain thinks Obama should apologize for associating with a criminal extremist. To which Obama might reply: After you.

And in an August 22 blog post about an anti-Obama ad highlighting Obama's association with Ayers, Chapman wrote:

But conservatives may not want to draw attention to the issue of ties to violent radicals -- since John McCain is longtime pals with convicted Watergate burglar Gordon Liddy, who once plotted a journalist's murder (which was never carried out) and has advocated the shooting of federal law enforcement agents.

If Obama needs to answer questions about Ayers, McCain has the same obligation regarding Liddy. How about they both get started?

From The New York Times' October 4 article "Obama and '60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths":

Their relationship has become a touchstone for opponents of Mr. Obama, the Democratic senator, in his bid for the presidency. Video clips on YouTube, including a new advertisement that was broadcast on Friday, juxtapose Mr. Obama's face with the young Mr. Ayers or grainy shots of the bombings.

In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama's Republican rival, asked, "How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?"

[...]

Since earning a doctorate in education at Columbia in 1987, Mr. Ayers has been a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the author or editor of 15 books, and an advocate of school reform.

"He's done a lot of good in this city and nationally," Mayor Richard M. Daley said in an interview this week, explaining that he has long consulted Mr. Ayers on school issues. Mr. Daley, whose father was Chicago's mayor during the street violence accompanying the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the so-called Days of Rage the following year, said he saw the bombings of that time in the context of a polarized and turbulent era.

"This is 2008," Mr. Daley said. "People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life."

That attitude is widely shared in Chicago, but it is not universal. Steve Chapman, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, defended Mr. Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his longtime pastor, whose black liberation theology and "God damn America" sermon became notorious last spring. But he denounced Mr. Obama for associating with Mr. Ayers, whom he said the University of Illinois should never have hired.

"I don't think there's a statute of limitations on terrorist bombings," Mr. Chapman said in an interview, speaking not of the law but of political and moral implications.

"If you're in public life, you ought to say, 'I don't want to be associated with this guy,' " Mr. Chapman said. "If John McCain had a long association with a guy who'd bombed abortion clinics, I don't think people would say, 'That's ancient history.' "

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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