Oct 1 2005


It’s Not Easy Being Fox

“It’s a bit unseemly to talk about cutting off aid to these people while the hurricane is still roaring through Mississippi. But let’s give it a try.”

– Charles Krauthammer (Fox NewsSpecial Report, 8/29/05)

Protecting Sources–From the Editor

When Salon reported (8/17/05) that “many staffers” at the New York Times were troubled by “unanswered questions about [Judith] Miller’s reporting and role in the Plame affair” (see Extra!, 9-10/05), Times executive editor Bill Keller retorted that many accounts of the newsroom reaction to the case of the jailed reporter “are either flat wrong or grossly inflated,” and that “the prevailing sense in the newsroom…is that they are glad the paper is standing up for her and defending the principle of reporters’ need to protect their sources.” Perhaps the discrepancy can be explained by Salon‘s observation that “although several Times staffers were willing to offer criticism of the paper, none would do so on the record for fear of retaliation.” In a workplace where no one on staff feels free to go on record as questioning the boss, how likely is it that the boss is going to know the actual feelings of the staff?

Profiles Encouraged

Defending racial profiling, Bill Maher (Real Time, 8/19/05) declared that “the people who are trying to get us are young Muslim men, period.” Anticipating the obvious reaction, he added, “Don’t say Tim McVeigh”–as if mentioning the second-deadliest terrorist incident on U.S. soil would be an irrelevancy. Well, how about Eric Rudolph, who tried to blow up the Atlanta Olympics, along with two women’s health clinics and a gay bar? Statistically, terrorists in the U.S. are much more likely to resemble Rudolph than Mohammad Atta. And even Al-Qaeda membership is seemingly diverse: With John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla and Richard Reid all accused of helping the group, should profilers pay particular attention to white, Latino and black people? Discussing the London bombings, Maher said that the names of the accused bombers–“Mohammed, Sayed”–“looked like the same names that we’ve become accustomed to in the last 15 or 20 years.” Yet he didn’t mention Jamaican-born Jermaine Lindsay, one of the four suspects. Since Lindsay didn’t fit Maher’s thesis, he apparently didn’t notice him–an illustration of why racial profiling is not just wrong, but dangerous.

‘A PC Thing’

In response to the firing of D.C.-area talkshow host Michael Graham, who repeatedly declared on Disney‘s WMAL-AM that the religion of Islam was a “terrorist organization,” Fox News contributor James Pinkerton (8/27/05) declared that “the only reason” Graham was let go was because “he went after a PC thing, which is the sanctity of Islam.” Pinkerton endorsed Graham’s defense, paraphrasing it as, “Look, if I had said that the Catholic Church is a haven of pedophiles, if I had said that right-to-lifers are terrorists because of Eric Rudolph, nothing would have happened to me.” It’s far from clear that mainstream media personalities could actually make such claims and still keep their jobs. But Pinkerton also neglected to note that Graham was in negotiations to return to his show, and was only fired after he refused to admit that his statements were “too broad” (Washington Post, 8/23/05). Graham had earlier been forgiven for another noxious statement about Muslims (CSNS.com, 7/26/05): “I don’t wanna say we should kill ’em all, but unless there’s reform, there aren’t a lot of other solutions that work in the ground struggle for survival.”

‘Mother Knows Best’

New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafets, writing in the New York Times (8/16/05), cited Ariel Sharon’s mother’s take on Arabs: “Never trust them.” Chafets pointed to this motherly advice as a key to understanding the Israeli prime minister’s policies; his op-ed was headlined, “Mother Knows Best.” If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had reported that his mother had warned him to “never trust Jews,” it’s likely that a Times op-ed would see this, accurately enough, as evidence of a sick culture of anti-Semitism–not as an example of folksy wisdom.

March of the Pundits

In an article about conservative reactions to the nature documentary March of the Penguins, the New York Times (9/13/05) quoted right-wing movie reviewer Michael Medved as saying that the film “passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy,” and cited National Review editor Rich Lowry’s claim that “penguins are the really ideal example of monogamy.” Although the article appeared in the paper’s “Science Times” section, the article did not point out that emperor penguins, the bird featured in the film, are far from monogamous; they mate with the same partner two years in a row only 15 percent of the time (Auk, 4/99), and can have dozens of partners over their lifespan.

Faith in the Fed

“I think that Alan Greenspan might be the last person on Earth, maybe at this moment, whom everyone trusts. He is a voice of authority who people turn to and listen to, and markets respond, and politicians respond, and we’re past that point with politicians, I would argue we’re past that point with anchors on the air.”

–Cokie Roberts (ABC‘s This Week, 8/28/05)