London-based broadsheet the Financial Times spilled vials of poisonous ink in a July 5 obituary marking the death of former North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, going strong out the gate by charging that Helms was "little less than a monster" to "many around the world."
Writer Jurek Martin boiled down the political career of Helms, "The reviled Republican courted by his adversaries," as nothing more than that of "a man who never bothered to disguise his dislike for his enemies and his determination to frustrate them."
Martin listed the former Soviet Union, Fidel Castro's regime, and China among Helms's enemies, while failing to acknowledge the systemic human rights abuses from these regimes that a broad swath of liberals and conservatives alike shared (and share) a strong aversion for.
As for the United Nations, another target of the late senator's criticism, Martin glossed over Helms's bipartisan cooperation with the very liberal Democratic Sen. Joe Biden (Del.). Helms and Biden co-sponsored legislation in 1999 that held up U.S. dues to the international body in order to spur it to enact reforms. Martin chalked up the success of the dues-withholding policy to Clinton administration officials:
[S]uch was his power in the Senate that presidents, cabinet ministers and his congressional colleagues had little alternative but to deal with him, sooner or later.
This was graphically the case after the Republicans swept to congressional power in the 1994 elections. Successive secretaries of state, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, paid court to him, as did Richard Holbrooke, the United Nations ambassador. Mr Helms had held up his confirmation in the job for over a year.
Mrs Albright and Mr Holbrooke struck an agreement whereby the US paid over $900m in outstanding dues to the UN.
In return, Mr Helms extracted a promise of UN reform and, early in 2000, became the first US legislator to address the Security Council, warning its members not to push the US into "entangling alliances".
Martin went on to, without evidence, chalk up Helms's opposition to an ambassadorship to New Zealand for former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) to racism, and to boil down his opposition to federal funding for erotic photography as homophobia:
[H]is revulsion towards the regime in Beijing caused him to hold up confirmation of President Bill Clinton's new ambassador to China for a full year. He also blocked the appointment of another former Senate colleague, Carol Mosely-Braun, to the embassy in New Zealand. The fact that she had previously offended Mr Helms mattered less, in public estimation, than that she was black, thus proving his racial prejudices.
The same was said of his attitude towards homosexuals, in life and in art. He invariably voted against federal funding for research into Aids and sought to stop funding for an exhibition by Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer.
The fact that Braun's senatorial career was tainted with corruption and poor judgment, such as a 1996 trip to pal around with a dictator (see below) was curiously missing from Martin's notice:
Not helping matters was Moseley-Braun's 1996 trip to Nigeria, where she met with the late military dictator Sani Abacha-whose oppressive government was a client of Matthews, then a Beltway lobbyist. The journey, one of at least half-a-dozen she took to Africa during her Senate stay, was heavily criticized by the State Department, human-rights groups, and other African-American members of Congress.
But why should a biased reporter like Jurek Martin let facts get in the way of spitting on the grave of a much-reviled political conservative?