Times Watch’s end-of-year awards issue celebrates the best of the worst quotes that appeared in the paper or were uttered by Times reporters and columnists during 2011.
The New York Times spent much of the year in pro-Obama defense mode, excoriating the Tea Party and conservative opposition to Obama's agenda. Yet the paper found one movement it could embrace wholeheartedly – the leftist campouts known as Occupy Wall Street. And sometimes - as when China-loving columnist Tom Friedman spouted, "If this were China they would have walked to the game in the snow, and doing calculus along the way," Times journalism was just too ridiculous to take seriously. Paul Krugman made his usual sterling showing as well, using the tragedies of 9-11 and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to attack conservatives.
This year there were three categories of bias:
• Occupy Wall Street’s “Athenian Democracy” vs. Tea Party “Terrorists”
• Blaming Conservatism, not the Shooter, for the Rampage in Arizona
• Just Plain Bizarre
His “winner” in the category, Occupy Wall Street’s “Athenian Democracy” vs. Tea Party “Terrorists,” was this poison dart from columnist Joe Nocera on August 2:
“You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them. These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took....For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests.”
Stoll notes: “Even Nocera, on reflection, thought this was too much, writing, ‘The words I chose were intemperate and offensive to many, and I’ve been roundly criticized. I was a hypocrite, the critics said, for using such language when on other occasions I’ve called for a more civil politics. In the cool light of day, I agree with them. I apologize.’”
For the category, Blaming Conservatism, not the Shooter, for the Rampage in Arizona, Stoll picked this double, or perhaps quadruple standard, from the Times editorial board:
It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.” – From a January 10 editorial on the shootings in Tucson.
“In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East....There were reports that some soldiers said they had heard him shout “God is Great” in Arabic before he started firing. But until investigations are complete, no one can begin to imagine what could possibly have motivated this latest appalling rampage.” – From a November 7, 2009 editorial after a radical Muslim Army officer killed a dozen people at Fort Hood, Texas.
Stoll writes: “This is a blatant double standard, times two (or Times two), which may be a quadruple standard. First, there's the double standard on rushing to judgment, in which it's okay to blame Republicans for violence before investigations are complete, but it's not okay to blame radical Muslims. Second, there's the double standard in which Republicans are to blame for ‘arguments of division’ and demonization when they criticize immigrants, welfare recipients, or bureaucrats, but the Times isn't demonizing or dividing anyone when it criticizes Republicans, Tea Party members, bankers, or members of the ‘one percent.’”
Stoll’s winner in the category Just Plain Bizarre was this revealing gem from Times economics writer (now Washington Bureau chief) David Leonhardt, in a front-page economics column on April 13:
In reality, finding a way to raise taxes may well be the central political problem facing the United States.
Stoll replies: “Maybe in Mr. Leonhardt's reality. At the Times this sort of opinion-column writing gets you a promotion to Washington bureau chief, which is Mr. Leonhardt's new job overseeing politics and policy coverage.”
Thanks to judge Ira Stoll, and enjoy the full collection of quotes at TimesWatch.