On Sleazy Book Deals, NY Times Tells a Liberally Slanted Story of Moral Equivalence

November 21st, 2019 7:52 PM

In the aftermath of the guilty verdict for former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) for sham book sales she used to illegally finance her campaigns and renovate her home, New York Times Sunday Book Review editor Emily Eakin ran a slanted history of politicians who previously got into supposedly similar “book trouble.”

The piece cynically lumped in non-criminal behavior with what Pugh was convicted of doing. (Meanwhile, Clintons and Obamas make multi-million dollar book deals with virtually no scrutiny from the press, which is incurious about the deals but rapturous in regards to the contents.)

Eakin pointed the finger at four politicians, all clearly identified as Republicans, while not even identifying Pugh as a Democrat, before hitting a single Democrat, former House Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned three decades ago. Even in that instance, Eakin made sure to blame a Republican, then-Congressman Newt Gingrich (GA), for Wright’s woes.

The online headline deck was “When Book Deals Get Politicians Into Hot Water -- The former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh, charged with fraud over her ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s series, isn’t the first elected official who’s run into book trouble” (click “expand”):

Under normal circumstances, any author who raked in $600,000 for a series of self-published children’s books would be snapped up by a prestigious publisher and handed a lucrative multi-book deal.

But in the case of Baltimore’s former mayor Catherine Pugh, the sales were a sham. Most of the “Healthy Holly” books bought by local health care companies and the Baltimore school system were never distributed, and Pugh used the money to finance her political campaigns and renovate a house.

Politicians love to write books (whether readers finish them is another matter), and Pugh is hardly the first to come under scrutiny over hers. Here’s a look at some others who have.

After failing to identify Pugh as a Democrat (other Times reporters managed to do so), Eakin eagerly lumped non-illegal book sales by four Republicans into the cynical mix, including books by 2012 presidential contender Herman Cain and 2008 vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

She went into detail on the fate of John Rowland, former Republican governor of Connecticut, who served time in prison for book-related tax fraud, before turning to the 1990s and crusading House Republican Newt Gingrich, then the incoming Speaker of the House, "forced to give up a $4.5 million advance for two books about conservative ideology to avoid the ‘appearance of cashing in on his party’s victory in the November elections.’”

Finally, reaching back to 1988, Eakin found a Democratic book controversy, involving powerful House Speaker Jim Wright, who had to resign. Yet unwilling to let a Democrat take the blame alone, she made a false moral equivalency, comparing Wright’s situation with another “unorthodox book arrangement” on behalf of Gingrich, who had made Wright’s reign a target of ethical scrutiny.  Wright was engaged in genuinely sleazy activity, which resulted in 69 counts of ethics violations (he resigned to avoid being indicted), while Gingrich’s deal was above board.

Yet Eakin lazily equated the two stories:

In 1988, it was the Democratic Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, who came under fire for improprieties related to the sale of his book “Reflections of a Public Man.” The book, a pamphlet-size collection of speeches and casual observations, was at the center of a House Ethics Committee investigation, led by Newt Gingrich, then a congressman. Accused of selling the book in bulk to a handful of supporters as a means of skirting federal election laws -- which capped individual campaign contributions at $1,000 -- Wright resigned. At the time, Gingrich himself was benefiting from an unorthodox book arrangement: 21 investors put up $105,000 to promote “Window of Opportunity,” a book applying conservative ideas to computers, space, health care and education that he wrote with two others.