Is the New York Times undependable?

By Les Kinsolving

On Aug. 17, page 1 of the New York Times included the following written by Elizabeth Bumiller:

President Bush said today that he was listening carefully to a group of Republicans who were warning him against going to war with Iraq, but that he would still make up his own mind based on information that is very tightly held within his administration. It was the first time Mr. Bush had so directly addressed the growing chorus of concern from Republicans, which now includes former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger …

Did you believe that – because it was page 1 in “The Newspaper of Record”?

Well, Dr. Henry Kissinger didn’t. For only five days earlier on the Washington Post Op-Ed page, he wrote the following:

The administration should be prepared to undertake the national debate because the case for removing Iraq’s capacity of mass destruction is extremely strong. … The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demonstrated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action.

In Alexandria, Va., the Media Research Center listed this horrendous Times error – along with two more errors – under the same headline: THE TIMES vs. THE FACTS.

On Aug. 23, Suzanne Kapner of the Times, under a headline BRITISH AIDE SAYS TOPPLING HUSSEIN IS NOT A GOAL FOR LONDON, reported the following:

Reinstating United Nations weapons inspectors – not the removal of Saddam Hussein – is the centerpiece of Britain’s policy toward Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said today. The statement made on the BBC radio program “Today,” underscored the differences between the United States, which has made the removal of Mr. Hussein a priority, and Britain, its closest ally in fighting terrorism.

But four days later, the Times published the following correction:

An article on Friday about remarks by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the British government’s Iraq policy, misattributed a statement about that policy. The assessment that removing Saddam Hussein is “not an object of British foreign policy” was made by the BBC interviewer, not by Mr. Straw.

Then, on Aug. 8, Evelyn Nieves and the same Elizabeth Bumiller, reported in the Times:

The vice president’s speech billed as a talk on the economy and national security, sounded at times like an address a chief executive might give to shareholders … he credited the administration’s tax cuts with helping the country to “climb out of the recession and to weather the terrible financial effects of Sept. 11,” although the recession has not abated and the stock market today continues its decline.

But one week later, the Times’ apparently very busy Corrections Department had to go into action yet again, with the following:

An article on Aug. 8 about speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney defending the administration’s stewardship of the economy, referred incorrectly to the 2001 recession and to the direction of the stock market on Aug. 7. Economists agree that the recession has ended, not continued. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose the day of the speeches, by 182 points; it did not decline.

How long will the New York Times put up with such reporting that they have to retract?

In the Washington Times, a one-half page ad from an ad-hoc committee to protest the New York Times Middle East coverage includes the following:

“In reporting the Arab-Israeli conflict, the New York Times has been guilty of journalistic misrepresentation and deliberately biased reporting. Correspondents and editors have chosen stories to elicit sympathy for the Palestinians, while making little effort to report on the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombings. They have also given disproportionately greater space to Palestinian perspectives and spokespersons, while often describing Israel’s views and policies in a few sentences or in the ‘back pages.’

“Moreover, the New York Times continually displays a reluctance to properly expose the corruption, authoritarianism and complicity of the Palestinian Authority in its terrorist campaign against both innocent Israeli and Arab civilians.

“What confounds us is why the New York Times treats Israel so unfairly. Why is it so biased against the only democratic nation in the Middle East – a region composed of 22 totalitarian countries surrounding Israel? Above all, why is it so disdainful of the only country in that region that shares America’s values of freedom, liberty and democracy? Three examples:

“1) The large photo on the front page after the Israeli solidarity march in May displaying an ‘End Israeli Occupation of Palestine’ sign distorted what really happened and occasioned an editor’s note the following day because of the outcries and massive subscription cancellations.

“2) An article by correspondent Joel Greenberg describing the death of two girls, 17-year old Rachel Levy and 18-year old Ayat al-Akhras as two high school seniors whose lives intersected, divided by war but joined in carnage, was totally obscene and morally repugnant. To somehow put a homicide bomber on the same level as an innocent girl shopping for the Sabbath, is odious. Imagine if the New York Times had printed an article after Sept. 11 describing how the lives of Muhammad Atta and a 25-year old bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald had been intertwined and joined in carnage. This is moral relativity at its worst.

“3) The New York Times reported the 39-day stand-off in the Church of the Nativity (in Bethlehem) almost entirely from a Palestinian perspective. It was continually referred to as an Israeli ‘siege’ and not an occupation by Palestinian terrorists. Even though Palestinians shot their way into one of Christendom’s holiest sites and held the church and its religious leaders hostage, Times journalists frequently turned the terrorists into victims by reporting that they had taken ‘refuge’ in the church.”

How long will the New York Times publisher, Arthur (“Pinch”) Sulzberger allow this to go on before he retires Executive Editor Howell Raines?

Or is Raines doing exactly what Pinch wants so the Times will grow even more inaccurate and biased?