New York Times reporter Liz Robbins provided an excellent case study of liberal bias Tuesday, profiling both candidates on the eve of the special U.S. Senate election in the deep-blue state of Massachusetts. Robbins's stories appeared side-by-side on page A22 of Tuesday morning's newspaper, and Democrat candidate Martha Coakley clearly got the better of the deal.
A headline portrayed Coakley as a faithful public servant facing unjust anger: "After Career as Their Advocate, Coakley May Face Voters' Wrath." Meanwhile, Brown's Cosmopolitan centerfold was worth a mention in the second paragraph of his profile.
The text to the Coakley story was highly flattering:
Even during a fierce campaign for Senate, Martha Coakley speaks with quiet fervor, a serious woman who has been arguing issues since she was a standout on her Western Massachusetts high school debate team.
Ms. Coakley, the state's attorney general, gained international recognition as a methodical county prosecutor during the 1997 trial of Louise Woodward, a British au pair convicted of killing a baby boy in her care. Her composed television appearances helped her become the first woman elected district attorney in Middlesex County, the state's most populous, a year later. In 2006, just as easily, she swept the race for attorney general. Since then, she has won settlements from Boston's Big Dig contractors and from Wall Street firms that engaged in deceptive practices.
The Times went the entire campaign without mentioning Coakley's controversial connection to the notorious "sex abuse" witchhunt, the Gerald Amirault case. Yet the Times has twice mentioned the Woodward trial, which reflects favorably on Coakley. The first mention came in Abby Goodnough's warm introduction of Coakley after her win in the Democratic primary last December. In that December 10 story, Goodnough stated Coakley was "now poised to become the first female senator from Massachusetts...a highly disciplined, if not passionate, politician who rarely surprises or missteps."
More serious was the Times's omission of Coakley's involvement in keeping Gerald Amirault in jail on fabricated sex abuse charges as Middlesex district attorney in 2001. Amirault was one of the victims of the witch-hunt known as the 1986 Fells Acres Day School ritual sex abuse case, now universally recognized as an abuse of power by Massachusetts prosecutors. Children who attended the day care center were prodded into increasingly bizarre allegations against the Amiraults, the family that ran the day care center. Amirault was convicted in 1986, his wife and sister in 1987. Amirault was finally released after 18 years; it could have been 15 if not for Coakley.
In another instance of bias by omission, Robbins failed to use L-word when describing Coakley's liberal stand on issues like abortion, the death penalty, and civilian trials for terror suspects, replacing the radioactive term "liberal" with the euphemism "progressive."
A straightforward progressive on issues from abortion rights to same-sex marriage to the environment, Ms. Coakley, 56, has said she will be the 60th vote in the Senate in favor of health care legislation if she wins the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy in Tuesday's special election.
Robbins's adjacent profile of Republican candidate Scott Brown was not as flattering. Unlike the Coakley profile, the portrait of Brown, "Riding Waves of Disaffection, Brown Pushes for an Upset," contained a negative anecdote, one about Brown having "enraged gay rights activists," and played up high an anecdote about a centerfold Brown did for Cosmopolitan magazine 28 years ago. Robbins also labeled Brown a conservative in paragraph two.
Scott Brown, the Republican candidate for Senate, has run an aggressive, surprising campaign in Massachusetts, injecting fear into the Democratic machine over what was expected to be an easy victory.
A charismatic and conservative voice, Mr. Brown has capitalized on voters' disaffection with the status quo, lashing out against high taxes and government spending. Campaigning as vigorously as he trains for triathalons, Mr. Brown and his physique caused a stir when Cosmopolitan, on its Web site, reprised a 1982 centerfold that featured him nearly naked as America's Sexiest Man....Mr. Brown has promised to be the 41st vote against the health care bill, which could be a damaging blow for the legislation after months of protracted debate. He has said that Massachusetts has already addressed coverage needs in the state's 2006 legislation, and has criticized a federal bill as too costly....Mr. Brown narrowly won his State Senate seat in 2004 in a special election when his predecessor, Cheryl Jacques, left to become president of the Human Rights Campaign. Three years earlier, he had enraged gay rights activists by saying that it was "not normal" for Ms. Jacques, who is a lesbian, to have a baby with her partner.