The Politics of Skating at the New York Times, Continued

Last Wednesday, sports columnist Harvey Araton wrote about the Olympian feud between U.S. speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, with Hedrick starring as Bush and Davis as John Kerry:

“…at the root of the conflict is Davis's belief that Hedrick has been attempting to swift boat him here at the Olympics, use him as a prop as he wraps himself, Texas-style, in the flag, for the purpose of increasing his commercial appeal, while claiming that the feud has elevated their skating and is good for the sport.”

Araton, of course, took Davis’s side.

Araton, who posts his email address with his column, relies on an unexpected surge in reader feedback to fill his Saturday follow-up on the Hedrick-Davis imbroglio.

“I've come to better understand the home-participation phenomenon after unwittingly inviting America to weigh in on the Shani Davis-Chad Hedrick row. All it took was a sentence in a column that reported that a steady but hardly voluminous flow of e-mail messages from home was running about 50-50 on the subject of Davis's decision to skip the speedskating team pursuit to focus on winning (which he did) the gold medal in the 1,000 meters.”

Araton again works politics into the mix, and in a jab at Fox News makes an indirect and perhaps even unconscious acknowledgement that the Times’ readership is liberal:

“The revised tally was overwhelmingly for Davis, though certain demographic realities must be acknowledged. Davis is an African-American from Chicago and Hedrick a Texan, from Houston and a family -- as his father, Paul, recently said -- ‘of Bush people.’ So who wouldn't bet that Hedrick has done better by the Fox News count?”

He quotes an email from a reader who doesn’t appreciate his political cracks.

"Denny Long decried the encroachment of politics into an Olympic discussion, e-mailing: ‘Being conservative doesn't stop me from buying The New York Times daily. The business and sports coverage is very good and I thought nonpolitical. Why did you have to use “...attempting to swiftboat him here at the Olympics,” when describing Chad Hedrick's comments about Shani Davis?’”

Araton responds:

“People of all political persuasions, I responded, are quite capable of exploiting patriotism for personal gain, but let's be honest: In a country that is so reliably red and blue, why wouldn't debate on the Winter Olympics -- Nationalism on Ice -- break down along similar battle lines?”

He concludes with more indirect Bush-bashing while discussing Hedrick’s “bring-em-on brashness.”

“Hedrick won gold, silver and bronze -- what Bode Miller wouldn't do for one of them. But it was the Texan's bring-'em-on brashness that turned off the heavily Dutch crowd at the Oval Lingotto, and those fans were beside themselves yesterday when Hedrick finished second in the 10,000 meters -- a race he was heavily favored to win -- to Bob de Jong of the Netherlands. Maybe the Dutch had the last word on Shani and Chad after all. You think?”

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

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