The Literally "Untouchable" Patrick Fitzgerald vs the "Torquemada" Ken Starr

October 31st, 2005 2:47 PM
Saturday's big front-page feature story on the indictment of I. Lewis Libby comes from political reporter Todd Purdum, and his take on prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is typically positive (and just in time for Halloween): "It was as if Mr. Fitzgerald had suddenly morphed from the ominous star of a long-running silent movie into a sympathetic echo of Kevin Costner in 'The Untouchables.'"

In the same edition, television-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley reviews prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Friday press conference and makes the very same comparison: "In any turmoil, television seeks a hero. Stepping above the political wrangling, Mr. Fitzgerald presented himself to viewers as a righteous, homespun voice of reason, using baseball metaphors to explain his investigation and the flag to defend it….Back in the United States attorney's office in Chicago, the relentless prosecutor is known as Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree. Standing at a lectern at the Justice Department, wearing a blue shirt and red tie, a film of sweat on his forehead, Mr. Fitzgerald looked more like a Jimmy Stewart character: Mr. Fitzgerald goes to Washington."

A Nexis search indicates the Times never compared Ken Starr to Eliot Ness. However, on March 24, 2002, then-Washington bureau chief (now managing editor) Jill Abramson did pass along comparisons of Starr to another historical figure, albeit one with not quite as good a reputation: "But by the time he stepped down in October 1999, relentless attacks by Democrats and Clinton allies had created a powerful caricature of him as a prude and a Torquemada leading a partisan inquisition."

For more New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.