The Once-Great Paper Misrepresents the Facts, Quotes Only Rightwingers and Misrepresents Some of them to Suggest They are 'Liberal'
PLUS: An Invitation to Bill O'Reilly...
By Brad Friedman on 1/13/2007, 3:21pm PT  

The New York Times today joins the White House, the disingenuous Rightwing media and blogs, and even several unnamed supposed non-Rightwingers in purposely misconstruing Sen. Barbara Boxer's question to Condi Rice at last Thursday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Bush's new policy to escalate troop commitment in Iraq.

I reported on the controversy over the phony Boxer/Rice brouhaha yesterday here, after originally calling on a Congress member to ask the very question that Boxer asked (and which the Times ignored) last Sunday and again after Bush's speech on Wednesday night in the face of his supporting, yet callous, comments on the new policy that "we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties."

If the way in which the Times twisted the facts of the event was unintentional, the only alternative then is that the reporters who covered it, Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker, and the editors who allowed the article to go through, are utterly incapable of even the simplest intelligent analysis of a critical and relevant news event and, frankly, shouldn't be working for a paper as still-important to this country as the New York Times.

Picking up on the phony controversy over the prelude to Boxer's question of whether the White House had "an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?" --- the stunning answer from the Secretary of State, if she's to be believed, is that no, they did not --- the Times joined Fox "News" and NYPost and the other wingnut outlets in both twisting Boxer's comments and forwarding the unsupported notion that there was some sort of personal slur built into them.

The Times quotes Boxer's "offending" phrase --- one that even Rice admits not being offended at, until after the White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, suggested the comments were "outrageous" later on --- as follows:

During the Thursday hearing, Ms. Boxer told Ms. Rice: "You’re not going to pay any particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family."

Wow! The height of personal rudeness! Boxer really smacked down Rice for not being married and having no children! A comment which several suddenly-"feminist" Rightwing outlets characterized as "One Great Leap (Backwards) for Womankind!" just after Snow coincidentally called it a "great leap backward for feminism" in his official response.

Problem is, the way the Times characterized the "controversy" in the graf reposted above leaves out the rest of Boxer's comment and thus takes it completely out of context. Here's what she actually said in the lead-up to her important all-but-ignored question and response from Rice:

BOXER: Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact.

Even Rice admitted in her comments to the Times that "It didn't actually dawn on me that she was saying, 'you don’t have children who can go to war'."

Of course it didn't actually "dawn on" you, Ms. Rice. Because it didn't actually happen that way.

At least until Tony Snow took the opportunity to brilliantly turn the focus away from both Rice's answer revealing that the White House hadn't bothered to measure the cost in increased deaths to U.S. troops before announcing their new policy ("Senator, I don't think that any of us, uh, have a number. That, of expected casualties.") and from the fact that both Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate committee were highly critical of the White House escalation plan for the Iraq War.

Snow's comments, of course, were the marching orders to the various Rightwing outlets who were all too happy to twist Boxer's comments in the very same way. They all "reported" the exchange in the same phony context the following day (as I previously described here.)

While attacking the messenger to completely distract from the message is a time-honored and well-expected tactic from this White House and their sycophantic supporters, it continues to be distressing to see the once-great "Paper of Record" irresponsibly pick up that ball and run in the same disingenuous direction. Who needs Judith Miller?

To make matters worse, not only did the Times manage to only quote the mangled "analysis" of "Conservative" blogs and commentators in their coverage of the exchange, they even misrepresented a group which, at the first blush of the Times description of them, would seem indicate that they would have been an ally of Boxer's.

Appearing to defect from support of the Democratic Senator is a group called Project 21. The Times characterized the statement of a member of the group this way...

"I am deeply appalled by Senator Barbara Boxer’s cruel and callous attack on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," said Deneen Borelli, a fellow with an organization called Project 21, which describes itself as a "leading voice in the African-American community."

Oh, man! Boxer's in trouble now! Even the usually Democratic-leaning African-American community has turned their back on her and is attacking her scurrilous personal slur directed at Rice!

But wait. The group which the Times says "describes itself as a 'leading voice in the African-American community' actually describes itself --- on every single page on their website! --- as "The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives."

Their homepage, featuring a photo of Utah's Republican Senator Orrin Hatch warmingly embracing an unnamed African-American man, reports that their members have been interviewed by one Rightwing media outlet after another, including The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times.

Great job, New York Times! Rupert Murdoch couldn't have slimed Boxer better himself! And, in fact, he didn't! While we expect that kind of insidious tactic from Murdoch and friends, apparently we should have learned long ago to expect no better from you.

Pathetic.

Finally, in the Times' penultimate graf, they refer to "some Democratic Senate staffers" who "complained privately that Ms. Boxer’s exchange with Ms. Rice allowed the Bush administration to turn the tables on Iraq critics and sidestep the larger issue of the almost uniform opposition to the president’s new plan to send an additional 21,500 U.S. soldiers to Iraq."

Of course, the Times didn't bother to give a single name for any such "Democratic Senate staffers" and given their tortured reporting and misrepresentations in the rest of the article, I'd suggest there is every reason to be dubious that such "privately complaining Democratic Senate staffers" actually exist.

If they do exist, however, then they too are guilty of the same thing that "reporters" Cooper and Shanker and the Times editors are guilty of: Either being cowardly, irresponsible knee-jerk reactionists or, perhaps worse, purposely choosing to keep themselves so uninformed that they become little more than tools for a set of disingenuous Rightwing dead-enders and propagandists who are increasingly desperate enough that they are willing to slime and attack anybody who dares question the indefensible policies of the Bush White House.

And a note to Mr. O'Reilly:
On Friday, you were simply outraged by Boxer's comments and completely ignored (to nobody's surprise) the actual point revealed by the exchange that the White House hasn't bothered --- again, if Rice is to be believed --- to make the appropriate considerations in setting a new policy for the War in Iraq. Since you've tried a great deal, of late, on both radio and television to give the impression that you've been critical of Bush's lack of appropriate planning for the war and the way in which he's carried it out, don't you think that White House's admission that they have not bothered to consider the additional cost in blood to our troops before committing them in this "new way forward" in Iraq ought to be worth pointing out to your many viewers and listeners?

As I was the one --- or, at least the only one that I know of --- to call on a member of the media or Congress to ask the question that Boxer asked, I hope you'll feel free to invite me onto your show to discuss the matter. You may feel as free as you wish to yell indignantly in my direction about the issue, just as you did with whoever those two women were that you had on to supposedly defend Boxer. Just as long as you leave my mic on long enough for me to yell back --- not indignantly, however --- just with the facts of the matter.

Such facts, on the O'Reilly Factor as well as in the New York Times, would be a welcome relief from the regular garbage that both such outlets regularly perpetrate on the American public. It might even succeed in keeping us from making things still worse in Iraq, and even more disturbingly, from running in with eyes wide shut to yet another phony war --- this time in Iran.

My Email address is here, Mr. O'Reilly. I look forward to hearing from you. Even if I have the feeling that I won't.

...CONTACT...
New York Times Public Editor, Byron Calame: public@nytimes.com
Letters to the Editor: letters@nytimes.com