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Respect For the Dead? Rep. Helen Chenoweth, "Archconservative"

"Former Representative Helen P. Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho, an archconservative who ridiculed the Endangered Species Act and the protection of salmon in her own state...."

Reporter Randal Archibold's obituary for former Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage begins without muchrespect for the congresswoman.


"Former Representative Helen P. Chenoweth-Hage of Idaho, an archconservative who ridiculed the Endangered Species Act and the protection of salmon in her own state and called for disbanding large parts of the federal government, died on Monday in a car accident in Nevada. She was 68....She said she did not condone violence against the federal government, which militias and racial separatists in her largely rural district called for, but she had a reputation as a sagebrush rebel who sometimes sympathized with their causes....As much as liberals and environmentalists loathed her - 'Can Helen, Not Salmon' went one bumper sticker - supporters admired what they considered a principled, call-it-as-I-see-it manner."


BTW, according to Nexis, the last time the paper used the term "archliberal" was in April 1999, and never in an obituary, which are typically respectful of the dead and avoid stating controversies and unflattering labels in the lead.


The Times ran an even more slanted obituary from the AP in Tuesday's "National Briefing" section: "Former Representative Helen Chenoweth was killed in a car crash near Tonopah, her daughter Meg Chenoweth Keenan said. Ms. Chenoweth, 68, whose archconservative, often libertarian and sometimes extreme views made her popular with militia movements...."


That wasn't quite the way the Times handled the tragic accident that befell a politician that was as left-wing as Chenoweth was right-wing: Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who died in a plane crash in October 2002.


The October 26, 2002 obituary by David Rosenbaum begin by acknowledging Wellstone's liberalism, but did so in flattering, not off-putting terms: "Paul Wellstone often seemed out of step. He called himself a liberal when many used that word as a slur." Later: "His opponents always portrayed him as a left-wing extremist."


The Times, on the other hand, simply assumes as fact Chenoweth's "extremism."