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Presenting Times Watch's Top Ten Lowlights of the New York Times in 2009

2009 began as a year of smiles at the Times, with rapture over the historic Obama administration. But the smile curdled into a defensive snarl during the long hot summer of angry, white, and bitter tea party protesters, while Times columnists blamed conservative talk show hosts for a spate of ideologically motivated killings. The apex of outrage? The paper's labor union hypocrisy. In Timesland, unions are vital to the lifeblood of a sound economy - just not at the Times itself.

The Top 10 Lowlights of the New York Times in 2009


2009 began as a year of smiles at the Times, with rapture over the "historic" Obama administration. Reporters showered partisan praise on Obama's Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor and first lady Michelle Obama. Meanwhile, the Times resolutely buried emerging left-wing scandals over ACORN and Obama adviser Van Jones. But the smile curdled into a defensive snarl during the long hot summer of "angry," "white," and "bitter" tea party protesters, while Times columnists blamed conservative talk show hosts for a spate of ideologically motivated killings.


But perhaps the apex of outrages was a textbook case of liberal hypocrisy. In Timesland, unions are vital to the lifeblood of a sound economy - just not at the Times itself.


In ascending order of awfulness, here are the Top 10 lowlights of the Times in 2009.

10. Swooning Over Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
9. Ignoring Left-Wing Scandals ACORN and Van Jones
8. Editor Sam Tanenhaus, Cheerful Undertaker of the Conservative Movement
7. Birthers vs. Truthers
6. Obituaries: Ted Kennedy vs. Jesse Helms
5. Reporter Rachel Swarns' First Lady Fixation
4. Conservatives to Blame for Killings
3. 2009 GOP Wins Don't Matter, But 2005 Dems Wins Were Big Deal
2. Hostile Coverage of Tea Party, Townhall Protests
1. Times Union Hypocrisy: Outsourcing High-Paying Union Jobs to Florida



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10. Swooning Over Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The Times' May 27 edition led with Obama's choice of Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court nominee, and the swooning began. Reporters Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny never directly acknowledged Sotomayor's liberal outlook, although there was more than enough in her judicial record (and her own words) to indicate her ideology:

Judge Sotomayor's past comments about how her sex and ethnicity shaped her decisions, and the role of appeals courts in making policy, generated instant conservative complaints that she is a judicial activist. Senate Republicans vowed to scrutinize her record. But with Democrats in reach of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, the White House appeared eager to dare Republicans to stand against a history-making nomination at a time when both parties are courting the growing Hispanic vote.


The Times didn't directly label Sotomayor a "liberal," but used the "conservative" label four times to describe Sotomayor's opposition. Her rise from a housing project in the East Bronx was called "a compelling life story" in a May 28 lead article, while Sheryl Gay Stolberg's gushing 5,000-word "Woman in the News" profile of Sotomayor on May 27 positioned the judge's rise as "Her up-by-the-bootstraps tale, an only-in-America story...."

By contrast, the lead story of July 2, 1991 by then-White House reporter Maureen Dowd was curt in describing the riveting life history of conservative Clarence Thomas. Dowd dispensed with Thomas's rise from poverty in Pin Point, Ga., where he was raised by his grandparents, in two and a half paragraphs and suggested a cynical political motivation on the part of President George H.W. Bush. Thomas's life wasn't inspiring, but was merely "offered as inspiring" by the president:

The President and Judge Thomas struck the theme that the White House hopes will negate the inevitable criticism by civil rights groups about the nominee's dismissal of affirmative action as "social engineering." Mr. Thomas's life was offered as inspiring proof that minority members can pull themselves up from rough beginnings without special favors.


The Times really got excited on July 10 with a front-page profile that invited NYC residents to swoon along with Sotomayor: "To Get to Sotomayor's Core, Start in New York - Milestones in Work and Life, Set to a City's Rhythms."

The paper devoted huge chunks of its print edition to a map of the five boroughs spotlighting how Sotomayor owned this town: Her first NYC apartment, her favorite pizza place in Brooklyn, and of course Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, home to her "beloved Yankees." And is there something uniquely New York liberal about Sotomayor being nice to janitors?

A daughter of the Bronx, Sonia Sotomayor claims the Brooklyn Bridge as her power-walking trail, the specialty shops of Greenwich Village as her grocery store, and the United States Court House as the setting for her annual Christmas party, where judges and janitors spill into the hallway.

Her passions run toward the Metropolitan Opera and the ballet, not to mention her beloved Yankees. She eats with friends at Nobu in TriBeCa and works off calories on a treadmill in her bedroom. She is not a rollicking sort, her sense of humor coming in a minor key, yet she holds friendships dear and is godmother to the children of lawyers and secretaries alike.


Mary Katharine Ham, blogging at the Weekly Standard, caught the self-congratulation in a detailed take-down of the Times New York City-centric pseudo-sophistication:

This is the kind of ostentatious, self-conscious bean-counting of the disadvantaged with which only urbane liberals can be comfortable, both in their personal lives and public policy. Are Sotomayor's relationships illustrative of her character? Sure, and they reveal she's a basically decent person (just like many federal judges - even some of the strict constructionists!). Unless, of course, Sotomayor approaches her relationships in the same way the New York Times reporter writes about them - collecting blue-collar chits and counting friends of color as karmic cool points.



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9. Ignoring Left-Wing Scandals ACORN and Van Jones


ACORN scandal? What ACORN scandal? In his September 27 column "Tuning In Too Late," New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt criticized his paper for its lack of coverage of the scandal involving left-wing housing activist group ACORN.

Hoyt summarized the famous video sting in which ACORN workers at several branches across the country were caught on camera giving advice on child sex trafficking and tax evasion to a gaudy pimp and a hot-pants prostitute (actually young conservative activists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles). The tapes, whose gradual release was masterfully mediated for maximum impact by Andrew Brietbart of BigGovernment.com, resulted in ACORN being cut off from federal funding and losing its ties to the Census Bureau and IRS. Yet the Times took little interest in the scandal and the consequences, as Hoyt admitted:

But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from ACORN, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes - closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser - suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.


The paper also missed the outcry over Obama environmental adviser (and 9-11 "Truther") Van Jones, who resigned the night of September 5. That came after days of controversy (ignored by the mainstream media) after the Gateway Pundit blog dug up proof of Van Jones having signed a "911Truth.org" petition in 2004 questioning whether the Bush administration "may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen." The Times didn't run a print story on the matter until Van Jones resigned his administration post.

The Times' initial print story September 6 on Van Jones' resignation, "White House Adviser on 'Green Jobs' Resign," wasn't fully satisfying either, with reporter Sarah Wheaton framing the matter in partisan terms:

In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration's conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House's environmental jobs "czar" on Saturday.


Managing Editor Jill Abramson had previously admitted the paper was "a beat behind" in its Van Jones coverage, but blamed the Labor Day weekend and denied any bias.


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8. Editor Sam Tanenhaus, Cheerful Undertaker of the Conservative Movement

As editor of both the Times Sunday Book Review and Sunday Week in Review sections, Sam Tanenhaus is an influential cultural force. His slim 2009 book, "The Death of Conservatism," garnered much attention from a liberal media eager to herald, well, the death of conservatism.

There were huge hints about the book's hostile anti-conservative slant on the back cover, which featured blurbs by such dubious friends of conservatism as journalists Chris Matthews and Jane Mayer. One of the more dishonest passages from "Death" was spotlighted by The Weekly Standard magazine. Here's the passage:

The primary dynamic of American politics, normally described as a continual friction between the two major parties, is equally in our time a competition between the liberal idea of consensus and the conservative idea of orthodoxy. We see it in the Democratic Party's recent history of choosing centrist, explicitly nonideological presidential candidates (Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama), as contrasted with the Republicans' preference for ideologically committed ones (Goldwater, Reagan, George W. Bush).


The Standard writer scoffed:

The sophistry here is breathtaking. Tanenhaus not only conflates his own political preferences with the American "center." In order to prove that only the Democratic party nominates "centrist, explicitly nonideological" men for the presidency, Tanenhaus (1) puts Obama - Barack Obama! - in the "centrist" camp, and (2) totally ignores Democrats Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Al Gore, as well as Republicans Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain.


Left-wing PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers interviewed Tanenhaus September 18, where he insulted the modern-day conservative movement, calling it "a politics of vengeance." Tanenhaus, indulged in conspiracism, declaring of the 2000 election matching Bush and Al Gore: "... the conservatives on the Supreme Court stopped the democratic process, put their guy into office."

Challenged by Moyers on the book's title, Tanenhaus ludicrously insisted: "The paradox of conservatism is that it gives the signs, the overt signs of energy and vitality, but the rigor mortis I described is still there."

On October 1, Tanenhaus discussed "The Death of Conservatism" with Reihan Salam on Slate's Book Club feature and used a well-known lefty vulgarism, deriding anti-tax protesters as "tea-baggers."

Even today the right insists it is driven by ideas, even if the leading thinkers are now Limbaugh and Beck, and the shock troops are tea-baggers and anti-tax demonstrators.


As an editor with a wide field (both literature and politics), does Tanenhaus really not know the vulgar origin of the phrase "tea-baggers"?

Tanenhaus also thinks Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush "probably" committed "impeachable offenses." Appearing once again on Charlie Rose's PBS chat show October 28, he insisted:

With Nixon, with Reagan, and with George W. Bush - decided there should be no constraints on the presidency at all. And we had three presidents in those three instances - Nixon, Reagan, and Bush - who committed impeachable offenses probably. And we had Democratic presidents who seemed to understand the limitations of power, and we had moderate Republicans who understood that - Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, the elder Bush.

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7. Birthers vs. Truthers


The radical 9-11 "Truth" movement - people who believe President Bush either had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks or plotted them himself - got a fair hearing from the Times back in 2006. The paper even marked their cause as brave and patriotic: "Some participants see an American tradition of questioning concentrated power."

But three years later, anti-Obama "Birthers" were harshly criticized and marginalized for a far less incendiary suggestion: That Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States.

Media reporter Brian Stelter's July 25 story, "A Dispute Over Obama's Birth Lives On in the Media," questioned those questioning Obama's birth certificate and thus his eligibility for the presidency:

The conspiracy theorists who have claimed for more than a year that President Obama is not a United States citizen have found receptive ears among some mainstream media figures in recent weeks.

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the country's most popular talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, told his listeners on Tuesday that Mr. Obama "has yet to have to prove that he's a citizen."


Reporter Jeff Zeleny on August 5 made it clear the anti-Obama "birthers" were nutty and "false" about their "fringe conspiracy theory."

By contrast, reporter Alan Feuer in 2006 treated the left-wing nuts who believe Bush orchestrated 9-11 with something approaching affection:

[Group press director Michael] Berger, 40, is typical of 9/11 Truthers - a group that, in its rank and file, includes professors, chain-saw operators, mothers, engineers, activists, used-book sellers, pizza deliverymen, college students, a former fringe candidate for United States Senate and a long-haired fellow named hummux (pronounced who-mook) who, on and off, lived in a cave for 15 years.

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6. Obituaries: Ted Kennedy vs. Jesse Helms


A stark double standard in marking the deaths of two prominent politicians: The death of towering liberal Democratic senator Sen. Ted Kennedy was marked by a 6,000-word obituary by John Broder that ran August 27: "Edward Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies."

Broder's opening paragraph:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.


Contrast Broder's respectful tone with the snarling opening sentence from Steven Holmes' obituary for Sen. Jesse Helms on July 5, 2008, under the headline "Jesse Helms, Unyielding Beacon of Conservatism, Is Dead at 86."

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday. He was 86.

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5. Reporter Rachel Swarns' First Lady Fixation

Reporter Rachel Swarns, aka Michelle Obama's lady in waiting, pumped out many pieces of hagiography on the first lady in 2009, each more flattering than the last.

A February 11 story, "Michelle Obama Extends Vogue Tradition," set the theme of Michelle Obama, Superwoman: "Michelle Obama, who has juggled news conferences and parent-teacher conferences, will appear on the March cover of Vogue, a spokesman for the magazine said Tuesday."

On March 11, Swarns praised the first lady for fighting the "obesity epidemic" in "Michelle Obama's Agenda Includes Healthful Eating."

In her first weeks in the White House, Mrs. Obama has emerged as a champion of healthy food and healthy living.


To Swarns, Ms. Obama is like Goldilocks's porridge: not too hot, not too cold, but just right:

In fact, Mrs. Obama cheerfully admits to an occasional hankering for fast food. It's all about eating in moderation, she said, emphasizing the kind of flexibility that might make it easier for people to relate to her message.


A March 12 story, "A White House Effort to Aid Women and Girls," celebrated an executive order from President Obama creating a White House Council on Women and Girls. Swarns' "reporting" could have come straight off a press release:

The White House celebrated women on Wednesday.

President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Council on Women and Girls, to help eliminate the challenges faced by women and girls and to ensure that cabinet level agencies coordinate their policies and programs that affect women and families.


In a May 16 story headlined "Mrs. Obama Visits Students as Motivator in Chief," Swarns covered Mrs. Obama inspiring young people in D.C. schools back in May, where "the students welcome her with astonishment." So does Swarns.

Swarns was clearly delighted when Michelle Obama took an active role in the health care debate in her July 19 swoon-a-thon, "First Lady Steps Into Policy Spotlight on Health Care."

After several months of focusing on her family, her garden and inspiring young people, Mrs. Obama is stepping into more wonkish terrain.

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4. Conservatives to Blame for Killings

Online columnist Judith Warner's June 11 entry, "The Wages of Hate," linked the murder of abortionist George Tiller and the killing of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum to conservative talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. That's not to be confused with the totally different column in the June 12 edition of the paper by Paul Krugman, "The Big Hate," which linked the Tiller and Holocaust Museum killings to Beck and Limbaugh.

Warner wrote:

Like Scott Roeder, the man charged in the shooting of the Wichita, Kan., doctor George Tiller nearly two weeks ago, James von Brunn, the white supremacist charged with killing a guard in an attempted shooting rampage at the Holocaust museum in Washington on Wednesday, doesn't have any current, overt links to extremist groups. Yet his violent hatred - of Jews, blacks, the government - echoes throughout the universe of right-wing extremists, who just a few years ago hailed and revered him as a "White Racialist Treasure."....White supremacist groups are vastly expanding. And right-wing TV rhetoric, thoughtless in its cruelty and ratings-hungry demagoguery, is helping feed the paranoia and rage that for some Americans now bubbles just beneath the surface.


Frank Rich's June 14 column, "The Obama Haters' Silent Enablers," plowed over the same ground, using the murders to advance the argument that right-wing rhetoric was reaching toxic levels. Rich cited a discredited, vet-smearing Department of Homeland Security report as "tragically, prescient" and said of some rhetoric by conservative actor Jon Voight:

This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren't warned.

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3. 2009 GOP Wins Don't Matter, But 2005 Dems Wins Were Big Deal


The G.O.P. had two big victories Election Day 2009, winning the governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia for the first time since 1997. The Times' coverage was dominated by three themes used to explain away Republican success:

• The Republicans won by appearing moderate.

• The G.O.P. is tearing itself apart

• These off-year elections don't mean much (except when Democrats win).

1) The Republicans Won by Appearing Moderate

Even after wins by two conservative Republicans, the Times spin was that moderation had prevailed, arguing that both New Jersey Governor-elect Chris Christie and Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell won by trimming their social conservative stands.

In a November 4 lead story, David Halbfinger and Ian Urbina emphasized the supposed moderation of the Republicans who won:

In Virginia, Mr. McDonnell, avoided divisive social issues, concentrating instead on his plans to create jobs, improve the economy and fix the state's transportation problems....The victor in Virginia, Mr. McDonnell, 55, is a social and fiscal conservative, but ran on a more moderate platform that appealed to voters in the suburbs in Fairfax County, where he was raised. By contrast, Mr. Deeds, 51, had a difficult time introducing himself to densely populated Northern Virginia.


That same day Ian Urbina claimed Bob McDonnell won Virginia by trimming his social conservative issues and avoiding, in Urbina's awkward phrase, "the farther right end of his party."

2) The G.O.P. Is Tearing Itself Apart

The Times suggested independent Conservative Doug Hoffman's loss in a special congressional race in upstate New York was a sign that divisions continue to wreck the Republican Party from within. Jeremy Peters' November 4 report from upstate New York carried the blunt online headline, "Conservative Loses Upstate House Race in Blow to Right."

3) 2009 Republican Wins Don't Matter, But Democrat Wins in 2005 Were Huge

The day before the election, chief political reporter Adam Nagourney's "news analysis" came with a hedging headline that seemed to anticipate Republican success: "Outcomes of Off-Year Races May Provide Insight." The text box downplayed the import of the races further: "A referendum on Obama, or isolated local contests?"

One year after the election of President Obama, a handful of off-year political contests - including governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia and a Congressional race in upstate New York - offer some clues about how Americans are viewing Mr. Obama, as well as an early measure of the landscape for next year's midterm elections.

But precisely what kind of clues? How much significance should be read into contests that will be determined by a small pool of voters in two states and one Congressional district?


Nagourney modeled the NYT's conventional wisdom perfectly, emphasizing all three themes in his November 4 "news analysis," "A Year After Dousing, Republicans' Hope Is Rekindled." The text box: "Republicans win but face continued upheaval."

First, Nagourney recited the "deep divisions" cliche:

 

But a Democratic victory in an upstate New York Congressional district - after an ideologically pitched battle between moderates and conservatives over how best to lead Republicans back to power - signaled that the Republican Party faces continued upheaval. The Democratic victory came over a conservative candidate who, with the enthusiastic backing of national conservative leaders and well-financed grass-roots organizations, had forced out a Republican candidate who supported abortion rights and gay rights....Still, even as Republicans celebrated their first wisp of good news in more than a year, they confronted results likely to fuel a continuation of the arguments that have torn the party with increased intensity in recent days.


Next up for Nagourney: The "moderate" argument:

In those two states, which, in their size and diversity, might offer a better testing ground for a party looking for new approaches, Mr. Christie and Mr. McDonnell won after decidedly playing down their conservative views on social issues. Their relentless focus on jobs and the economy - voters in both states listed those as their top issues in exit polls - appeared to blunt the effort of Democrats to undercut the candidates by pointing to their history of conservatism on social issues.


Nagourney moved on to the third point: These off-year elections don't matter anyway.

For Republicans, the results on Tuesday were welcome news after one of the party's toughest years. But the victories occurred on a relatively small playing ground. And in an off-year election, far fewer voters turn out than in a general election.

The results will certainly lift the Republican Party for some period. Yet history suggests they will not necessarily predict what will happen in the far more consequential races next year, when 39 governors' seats, 38 Senate seats and the entire House is up for re-election.


The Times wasn't nearly so ho-hum after the off-year elections of 2005, a good year for Democrats. The Times certainly saw the 2005 Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia as significant. Robin Toner's November 9, 2005 wrap-up was headlined "Stinging Defeats for G.O.P. Come at a Sensitive Time." Toner wrote:

After months of sagging poll ratings, scandal and general political unrest, the Republicans badly needed some good news in Tuesday's elections for governor. What they got instead was a clear-cut loss in a red state, and an expected but still painful defeat in a blue one.


And don't let the election results fool you, the G.O.P. was still in trouble. Nagourney's November 5 front-page piece, "Energized G.O.P. Looks to Avoid a Party Feud," faithfully forwarded the paper's left-leaning conventional wisdom in the lead:

Republicans emerged from Tuesday's elections energized by victories in Virginia and New Jersey, but their leaders immediately began maneuvering to avoid a prolonged battle with conservative activists over what the party stands for and how to regain power.


In Nagourney's view, Republicans were still doomed because of party divisions between those ever-"shrinking ranks of Republican moderates" and "conservatives." He repeated that argument on the Times' November 5 "Political Points" podcast, throwing the two losing Democrats under the bus, while repeatedly warning listeners not to overstate the election results:

Remember that we're talking about here are two states, not a lot of voters, one congressional district in upstate New York. Micro-wise, one thing we do want to pay attention to here is, and again, don't overstate this - independent voters who backed President Obama in Virginia and New Jersey last time went to the Republican gubernatorial candidates this time. Now, does that mean that they didn't, that they'll vote for, you know, whoever votes against Obama in 2012, or for Democrats, or Republicans congressional, for Republicans next year? No. I don't think so.

Second thing is, obviously the sort of big coalition that President Obama put together last year - first-time voters, African-American voters, young voters - I don't think showed up in either of those states. But you know what? Is that really surprising, that they didn't show up to vote for Creigh Deeds or Jon Corzine? So, my only point - with all due respect to Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine - my only point is let's be careful about over-interpreting this, in any way.

Corzine was evidently impressive enough to win the endorsement of the Times' editorial page on October 18.


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2. Hostile Coverage of Tea Party, Townhall Protests

At the height of public outrage over the financial crisis this spring, a left-wing "bus tour" protest prowled the affluent neighborhoods of Fairfield, Conn., looking for AIG executives to harass for bonuses paid out to employees of the insurance giant. The Times found the stunt, run by a group sponsored by unlabeled leftists ACORN, worthy of a full story March 22: "Carrying a Populist Message Into A.I.G. Territory." Total number of protesters? "About 40," according to the Times. Total media in attendance? "About 50," including Times reporter Manny Fernandez.

By contrast, when editorial writer Lawrence Downes took the plunge and covered a "tea party" protest in a hamlet on Long Island Sound April 7, it was clear he considered the movement a patchwork of right-wing kooks. He snottily caricaturized the protesters as silly, lazy, and greedy ("mostly, it was about tax cuts"). The text box: "Long Island patriots strike a blow against tyranny and whatever."

Tea parties are a recent phenomenon, spawned in the red-meat districts of right-wing talk radio and cable TV. It was strange to see the rebels reach Northport, whose antiques 'n' potpourri Main Street, with a half-dozen empty stores, could use a little federal stimulus.

But down at the park gazebo, the green lawn was rumbling with grass-roots anger. Actually, its grass-rootiness was highly debatable....It was not about fixing unbridled free-market capitalism, but ensuring its glorious restoration. Mostly, it was about tax cuts.


When the Times did finally notice the protests in a news story, its treatment was snide and dismissive. Reporter Liz Robbins included these lines in the first filing of her April 16 story (the lines didn't make the print edition):

All of these tax day parties seemed less about revolution and more about group therapy. At least with the more widely known protest against government spending, people attending the rallies were dressed patriotically and held signs expressing their anger, but offering no solutions.


As if your garden variety left-wing protest, with its papier-mâché puppets, inflatable rats, and every interest group under the sun, is some kind of organically conceived masterpiece of coherence.

Robbins dismissed the tea party protesters as inauthentic "Astroturf."

Although organizers insisted they had created a nonpartisan grass-roots movement, others argued that these parties were more of the Astroturf variety - an occasion largely created by the clamor of cable news and fueled by the financial and political support of current and former Republican leaders.


Obama-care loomed as the next big target of mass conservative opposition, and when conservatives began to raise their voices at congressional town halls over the August recess, the Times suddenly wasn't so fond of community organizing as it had been during the 2008 presidential campaign.

From Ian Urbina's slanted front-page story August 8:

The bitter divisions over an overhaul of the health care system have exploded at town-hall-style meetings over the last few days as members of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.

Democrats have said the protesters are being organized by conservative lobbying groups like FreedomWorks. Republicans respond that the protests are an organic response to the Obama administration's health care restructuring proposals.

There is no dispute, however, that most of the shouting and mocking is from opponents of those plans. Many of those opponents have been encouraged to attend by conservative commentators and Web sites.


Urbina filed nothing but Democratic talking points portraying the protesters as both passionate extremists and fake Astroturfers. Urbina dredged up the old "Brooks Brothers brigade" accusation from the Bush-Gore protests of 2000:

Earlier this week, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, compared the scenes at health care forums to the "Brooks Brothers brigade" in 2000, a reference to the protests that disrupted the vote count in Miami during the presidential election battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Portrayed at the time as local protesters, many were actually Republican staff members flown in from Washington.


As the long angry summer of town hall protests continued, it was clear that dissent against a president's policies was no longer cool at the Times. An August 12 front-page story by Ian Urbina and Katharine Seelye found protesters against Obama-care in Lebanon, Pa. to be "angry," "irritable" crowds of whites taking marching orders from conservative talk radio and web sites:

They got up before dawn in large numbers with angry signs and American flag T-shirts, and many were seething with frustration at issues that went far beyond overhauling health care....Ms. Abram described herself as a stay-at-home mother from Lebanon, and in many ways she was representative of the almost entirely white and irritable crowd, most of whom were from the area....It was the angriest people who got in line first."


September 12 was marked by a huge protest at the U.S. Capitol. Although officials estimated 70,000 people attended, and many estimates were far higher, the Times' coverage made do with one medium-sized story buried on page A37 under the understated headline, "Thousands Attend Broad Protest of Government."

While 40 left-wing protesters in Connecticut were worth a 724-word story in March, the tens of thousands of anti-Obama protesters garnered just 932 words. Reporter Jeff Zeleny painted the protesters as "angry" and "profane" and claimed the rally contained "no shortage of vitriol," as if there were never raised voices and obscene signs at left-wing anti-war rallies. Zeleny found some unnamed "Republican officials" to fret over a backlash, and downplayed the significance of those who turned out.

Lastly, reporter David Herszenhorn posted at nytimes.com November 5 from an anti-Obama-care rally on Capitol Hill. Herszenhorn made sure his readers knew the protesters were conservatives just parroting Fox News:

A series of spot interviews suggests that the protesters have come to Washington from all across the country - Texas, Ohio, Oregon and the greater Washington area. It's a generally older crowd, many in their 50s and 60s, predominantly, white, and many self-identified as Christians. They are fiercely conservative and deeply skeptical of the government, many of them adamantly opposed to abortion rights....Mr. Hershberger, like many of the demonstrators, repeated some of the most common conservative and Republican talking points heard repeatedly on Fox News.



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1. Times Union Hypocrisy: Outsourcing High-Paying Union Jobs to Florida

No explanation necessary:

"The argument against unions - that they unduly burden employers with unreasonable demands - is one that corporate America makes in good times and bad....The real issue is whether enhanced unionizing would worsen the recession, and there is no evidence that it would. There is a strong argument that the slack labor market of a recession actually makes unions all the more important." - New York Times editorial, Dec. 29, 2008.

"The New York Times News Service will lay off at least 25 editorial employees next year and will move the editing of the service to a Florida newspaper owned by The New York Times Company....The plan for the news service calls for The Gainesville Sun, whose newsroom is not unionized and has lower salaries, to take over editing and page design." - New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena, Nov. 13, 2009.