Last month, the New York Times jumped on the conservative fringe of "Birthers" who question Obama's Hawaiian birthplace and thus his presidential eligibility, deriding the conspiracy theory as false and demanding prominent Republicans denounce the idea. Yet the Times maintained strict silence on the Van Jones controversy as it bubbled away for several days in the photosphere, with only the Washington Times and Fox News Channel willing to treat as a news story the fact that an influential member of the Obama administration thinks the government may have let 9-11 happen -- a far more incendiary charge than the question of Obama's birthplace.
Not that the Times has completely ignored Van Jones. My Media Research Center colleague Seton Motley uncovered a Times profile of Van Jones from October 2007, written by columnist Thomas Friedman, who has been on a "green" kick the past few years. Friedman ignored Van Jones' Communist ties:
Van Jones is a rare bird. He's a black social activist in Oakland, Calif., and as green an environmentalist as they come. He really gets passionate, and funny, when he talks about what it's like to be black and green:
So Times's readers again come to an administration scandal cold, not hearing about controversy over an Obama official until the day that official resigns or retreats from an administration position. Chas Freeman was Obama's pick for a top intelligence post, who angrily withdrew from consideration in March 2009 after accusations of anti-Semitism that were ignored by the Times until the day he withdrew.
How can a newspaper justify keeping its readership so blissfully uninformed?
The Times's Sunday morning story on Van Jones resignation by Sarah Wheaton, "White House Adviser on ‘Green Jobs' Resign," buried on page A17, wasn't fully satisfying either.
Wheaton framed the matter in partisan terms:
In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration's conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House's environmental jobs "czar" on Saturday.
Controversy over Mr. Jones's past comments and affiliations has slowly escalated over several weeks, erupting on Friday with calls for his resignation.An "escalation" utterly ignored by the Times and almost all the mainstream media. Wheaton gave Obama the benefit of the doubt that the administration had not vetted Van Jones:
Appointed as a special adviser for "green jobs" by President Obama, Mr. Jones did not go through the traditional vetting process for administration officials who must be confirmed by the Senate. So it was not until recently that some of Mr. Jones's past actions received broad airing, including his derogatory statements about Republicans in February and his signature on a 2004 letter suggesting that former President George W. Bush might have knowingly allowed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to occur in order to use them as a "pre-text to war."
After downplaying Van Jones' ties to a group of Communist sympathizers, Wheaton wrote:
Republican blogs and conservative talk show hosts, notably Glenn Beck of Fox News Channel, seized upon Mr. Jones's statements and associations. Mr. Jones apologized on Wednesday for derogatory words he directed at Republican opponents of Mr. Obama's Congressional agenda during a lecture in February, calling his remarks "inappropriate" and noting that they were made before he joined the administration. Mr. Jones has also said in the past that the Sept. 11 petition did not reflect his views.
The Times didn't delve into the question of why Van Jones would sign a petition that didn't reflect his views, but the Washington Times did. The WT's Amanda Carpenter:
Mike Berger, a spokesman for 911Truth.org, told the Washington Times over the phone that all of the signers had been verified by their group. He said 911Truth.org board members "spoke with each person on the list by phone or through email to individually confirm they had added their name to that list."