NYT's James Dao Detours Around “Chocolate” City

New York Times reporter James Dao reports Friday on a study suggesting most of New Orleans’ displaced black population may not return, and dips briefly and non-critically into Mayor Ray Nagin’s Martin Luther King day remarks about the future racial makeup of New Orleans. He even leaves off the most controversial part -- Nagin’s incendiary preference for a “chocolate New Orleans.”

“The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is black, told an audience that ‘this city will be a majority African-American city; it's the way God wants it to be.’”

For whatever reason, the Times sliced off the “chocolate” piece which had attracted the most controversy in the first place. What Nagin actually said in his Martin Luther King day speech:

“It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

The Louisville Courier-Journal left off the same portion in a news story the day after the speech, which led public editor Pam Platt to apologize in print last Sunday:

“…Nagin's reference to ‘chocolate New Orleans’ had been edited out of that same story in these pages. Instead, our version read, ‘Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be rebuilt and again will be “a majority African American city.” [Newspaper] readers would not see the controversial ‘chocolate’ reference -- which was all over TV news and the Internet starting at the crack of dawn on the 17th -- in their own newspaper until a day later, on Jan. 18….So, what gives? The short answer: We messed up. It's not a monumental goof, but it's one that fuels suspicions some readers have about the news media in general and this newspaper in particular.”

The Times’ sudden reticence about Nagin’s “chocolate” comment is puzzling, given that the same reporter, James Dao, not only cited  “chocolate” in his thinkpiece last Sunday’s Week in Review, he managed to bake it into his pro-Nagin story:

This isn't the first controversial truncation of a quote by Dao. His October article marking the 2000th fatality in Iraq featured an incomplete quote of a Marine’s last letter home.

As Michelle Malkin, who broke the story, wrote: "The paper's excerpt of Cpl. Starr's letter leaves the reader with the distinct impression that this young Marine was darkly resigned to a senseless death. The truth is exactly the opposite.”

This is the part of Cpl. Jeffrey Starr’s letter Dao printed: "I kind of predicted this….A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances.”

But this is what Dao left off, which showed Starr explaining why he thought his death would be worthwhile:

“I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.'"

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.

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