When even a panel of liberal journalists thinks the New York Times has gone too far with its Romney-bashing, you know the paper's descending to uncomfortable subterranean depths of bias. With the lone exception of Jodi Kantor, herself a New York Times reporter, the members of today's Now with Alex Wagner panned the Times for its Home section front-pager about Romney's La Jolla, California, home, "The Candidate Next Door." The story was written by political writer Michael Barbaro in a section that usually has to do interior decorating and other apolitical domestic fare.
"Can I call bull on this?" Nation magazine contributor Ari Melber asked. "What they've done here is taken a campaign reporter who covers the campaign with a really thin, silly story, and then put it in the home section." [audio available here; video update coming shortly]
"This is an attempt, to draw connections, implicit or otherwise, between his personal wealth and his candidacy.... If they want to do it, they should do it either in the opinion section or in a news story about whether his wealth matters," Melber noted, adding that to his mind, it's not a substantial story anyway because, "I don't really care how much money Mitt Romney has."
Melber, of course, added that he has his share of policy complaints, particularly on taxes, but that Romney's personal wealth and what he does with his home renovations is not a legitimate campaign concern.
Kantor predictably jumped to the defense of the Times and her colleague Michael Barbaro, saying that it's akin to the time she wrote about how the presence of the Secret Service and their protective measures made it impossible for the Obamas to enjoy staying in their Chicago residence, noting:
I think what Michael was really writing about was not a kind of cheap political attack on the Romneys' wealth but this tension, right, between your real life and your candidacy and how you're supposed to exist in a normal residential way in the middle of a political campaign.
That was weak sauce for Wagner, who herself called "BS" on the Kantor's valiant attempt at defending the indefensible:
Jodi, to Ari's point, it is a political story. And having it in the Home section, I think, is perhaps a way to seek cover, a smokescreen if you will. In the article, not only do they talk about the Romneys' wealth but also his position on gay marriage and Romney's habits to stop folks smoking marijuana and tell them not to do that in the neighborhood.
Kantor was unfazed, insisting that it's a common sport of New York Times fans to armchair quarterback the paper's editorial decisions. "Seriously, I wouldn't waste that much time discussing which section it was in," Kantor added a bit testily.
"It's fine to read about, it's a very entertaining story, but it is clearly a political story," Huffington Post's Sam Stein agreed, adding he would withhold further criticism of Barbaro, a "high school classmate" of his.