Last year, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander took his paper to task for "tardiness" in reporting on James O'Keefe's phony ACORN sting videos, suggesting that the Post doesn't "pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints." New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote a similar column. Those columns were horribly misguided at the time, and only look more absurd as time goes by.
Here's CNN, with yet another example of why nobody should ever take James O'Keefe seriously:
James O'Keefe, best known for hitting the community organizing group ACORN with an undercover video sting, hoped to get CNN Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props and then record the session, those documents show.
The plan apparently was thwarted after Boudreau was warned minutes before it was supposed to happen.
[O'Keefe associate Izzy] Santa told Boudreau that O'Keefe planned to "punk" her by getting on a boat where hidden cameras were set up. Boudreau said she would not get on the boat and asked Santa why O'Keefe wanted her there.
"Izzy told me that James was going to be dressed up and have strawberries and champagne on the boat, and he was going to hit on me the whole time," Boudreau said.
CNN later obtained a copy of a 13-page document titled "CNN Caper," which appears to describe O'Keefe's detailed plans for that day.
"The plans appeared so outlandish and so juvenile in tone, I questioned whether it was part of a second attempted punk," Boudreau said.
But in a phone conversation, Santa confirmed the document was authentic. Listed under "equipment needed," is "hidden cams on the boat," and a "tripod and overt recorder near the bed, an obvious sex tape machine."
Among the props listed were a "condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, fuzzy handcuffs" and a blindfold.
Read the whole thing. And as you do so, remember: This is someone the Washington Post's ombudsman thinks the paper should take seriously.
CNN's Boudreau has posted her own account of O'Keefe's scheme:
James says that he wasn't really going to follow through with the plan. He e-mailed CNN this statement:
"That is not my work product. When it was sent to me, I immediately found certain elements highly objectionable and inappropriate, and did not consider them for one minute following it."
But that does not appear to be true, according to a series of emails we obtained from Izzy Santa, who says the e-mails reveal James' true intentions.
I have worked so hard to have people pay attention to my work, and to be a respected journalist. I don't want to be judged based on anything other than my work. But apparently, I represent all of the things this group hates about the mainstream media. They feel because of the way I look that I do not matter, and that my reporting is a joke. They don't know anything about my work ethic – my history – my dedication and commitment – and my love for reporting. They just saw my blonde hair. And the ironic thing is that I'm really a brunette.
As promised, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt responded today to the mounting criticism the paper has received for its article on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's description of his military service.
First, credit where credit is due, Hoyt does criticize the Times' hit piece on several fronts; given the fervor with which the paper has defended the story over the past week, Hoyt's acknowledgement that critics are correct on a number of points seems quite significant:
Were there flaws in the story? Yes: It should have said more about how it originated; it should have provided mitigating information far higher; it should have noted that his official biography was accurate. The full video should have been posted so readers could make their own judgments.
That said, Hoyt's column also ignores several key pieces of information that have come to light since the original story went to press, and even promotes a key falsehood that the Times' PR staff has used in defending the piece. Hoyt writes:
The paper cited several instances when Blumenthal made "plainly untrue" statements about his service, and posted a video excerpt of him saying in 2008, "We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam." The article at the top of Tuesday's front page said that on other occasions he used ambiguous language that could have left the wrong impression.
In fact, the Times article did not cite "several instances when Blumenthal made "plainly untrue" statements about his service." While the Times article reported that "sometimes" Blumenthal's remarks have been "plainly untrue," the article cited only one such quote meeting this description: the quote Hoyt mentions above. The article also referenced two instances in which Blumenthal, according to the Times, "intimate[ed]" that he had served in Vietnam - apparently the same instances Hoyt describes as Blumenthal having used "ambiguous language that could have left the wrong impression."
My colleague Eric Boehlert and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog have been all over the New York Times' failure to correct its erroneous reporting that James O'Keefe was dressed in an outlandish pimp costume while meeting with ACORN community organizers. I just want to jump in for a second to spell something out.
New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt has told Friedman that, going forward, "I am recommending to Times editors that they avoid language that says or suggests that O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp when he captured the ACORN employees on camera."
Obviously, Hoyt would have no reason to make such a recommendation if the Times had any proof that O'Keefe was dressed in his over-the-top pimp costume while meeting with the ACORN employees.
But Hoyt also told Friedman "I still don't see that a correction is in order, because that would require conclusive evidence that The Times was wrong, which I haven't seen."
Therefore, it seems the New York Times requires a higher standard of proof for retracting claims than for making them.
New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt on the paper's coverage of Game Change:
The Times has treated "Game Change" as news, but carefully: a review in the daily paper that raised the sourcing issues; a Sunday review; coverage of Reid's apology and Republican attempts to capitalize on it; an essay on the death of loyalty among political staffers; and another on the damage to the image of Elizabeth Edwards, portrayed in the book as "an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman."
Judith Warner, who wrote the Style section column about Elizabeth Edwards, said she did not try to verify what the book said because she was examining the issue of image. It's too bad she did not try, because on the same day her column appeared, former aides to Edwards told Politico, on the record, that the book's portrayal was accurate but incomplete, failing to capture her warmer side.
Well, that's a lame defense. How, exactly, do you "examine the issue of image" without exploring the accuracy of that image? You can do it, but you're left with an awfully shallow examination.
And, in fact, Warner's column wasn't exactly silent on the question of Game Change's accuracy. Here's how she began:
YET another illusion has been shattered.
In a new book about the 2008 presidential campaign, "Game Change," Elizabeth Edwards is portrayed as "an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman," and nothing like her image as "St. Elizabeth."
That certainly sounds like she's endorsing Game Change's portrayal of Edwards, doesn't it?
For the second straight week, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt devotes a column to claims that the paper's supposedly-inadequate responsiveness to right-wing yelling about ACORN proves that the paper demonstrates liberal bias. This time, Hoyt's hook is reader response to his previous column.
This latest column does show some improvement: This time, Hoyt went to the trouble of acknowledging that not everybody thinks the Times is biased in favor of liberals. That's quite an improvement. Still, glaring flaws remain, most notably that Clark Hoyt has yet again managed to get through an entire column about whether the Times demonstrates liberal bias without using the words "Iraq" or "Gore" or "Whitewater."
That's a bit like writing a column about whether the Atlantic Ocean is a desert without ever mentioning all the water.
Like clockwork, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt joins the parade of journalists buying into the right-wing attacks that because they were supposedly slow to cover the Most Important Story in the World (that would be ACORN, of course) that means they demonstrate liberal bias.
Like Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander and others who have recently taken up this theme, Hoyt manages to get through an entire column about the possibility that the Times is biased in favor of liberals without ever once mentioning the paper's coverage of the 2000 election or the run-up to the Iraq war, to pick just two of the most obvious counter-examples.
And like Alexander, Hoyt manages to avoid quoting or paraphrasing anyone arguing against the premise that the media in general and the Times in particular suffer from "liberal bias."
Hoyt does, however, break a bit of news:
Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was "slow off the mark," and blamed "insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio." She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person "a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere."
A few years ago, the New York Times created a conservative beat -- a reporter assigned full-time to reporting on the conservative movement (the paper didn't bother assigning anyone to cover the progressive movement.) Now, in response to right-wing whining, they're assigning an editor to brief them regularly on Glenn Beck's latest ravings. I'm sure that will make for some excellent journalism.
Hoyt's column ends with a quote from Pew's Tom Rosenstiel:
Rosenstiel said The Times has a particular problem with conservatives, especially after its article last year suggesting that John McCain had an extramarital affair. And Republicans earlier this year charged that the paper killed a story about Acorn that would have been a "game changer" in the presidential election - a claim I found to be false.
"If you know you are a target, it requires extra vigilance," Rosenstiel said. "Even the suspicion of a bias is a problem all by itself."
This is mind-blowingly clueless. The suspicion of bias will never go away. These efforts to bend over backwards to appease the Right -- people who will never be appeased -- no matter how ridiculous their complaints, in which newspapers like the Times fret over the suspicion of bias regardless of the merits of the complaint, are exactly how the paper ends up handing a presidential election to George W. Bush -- and then handing him his Iraq war on a platter.
And the idea that conservatives have "particular" reason to dislike the Times because of an article that may have implied John McCain had an affair is laugh-out-loud funny. I seem to have some vague memory of the Times suggesting a certain Democratic president was less-than-faithful -- and doing so more directly and more frequently than anything the Times published about John McCain. I seem to remember the Times -- a decade later -- trying to tally up the number of times the Clintons slept together in a given month, a task they never undertook with John McCain.
And conservatives have "particular" reason to dislike the Times because it ignored an election-year story about ACORN? Come. On. After what the New York Times did to Al Gore during the 2000 election -- making up a quote Gore never said in order to accuse him of being a liar was only the most sensational of the paper's offenses -- you have to be completely clueless to think conservatives have "particular" reason to distrust the paper's campaign coverage.
Oh, and there's still the little matter of the Iraq war. The Times implied John McCain was having an affair? Well, boo hoo. Thousands of Americans have died in an unnecessary war in part because the Times was insufficiently critical of the Bush administration's Iraq claims.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: The news media's disparate treatment of media critiques from the Left and from the Right pretty much disproves the idea of "liberal bias." If they really were biased in favor of liberals, liberal concerns about their coverage of huge matters like Iraq and Gore/Bush would get far more play than conservative complaints about whether an article about ACORN should have come a week earlier.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd responded to complaints about her frequent use of gender stereotypes by saying that "nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns," according to Times public editor Clark Hoyt. However, many writers and organizations -- including Media Matters for America -- have noted Dowd's feminization of male Democratic presidential candidates.