NYT Ombudsman Calls on Paper to Apologize for Geraldo Claim

Byron Calame has gotten to the bottom of the Geraldo vs. NYT title fight. While Geraldo is the victor, the New York Times refuses to surrender the belt. In the end, the NYT public editor tells us what we already know; the New York Times is not a fair publication.

ONE of the real tests of journalistic integrity is being fair to someone who might be best described by a four-letter word. The New York Times flunked such a test in rejecting a demand by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News for correction of a sentence about him in a column by the paper's chief television critic....

Since Ms. Stanley based her comments on what she saw on the screen Sept. 4, the videotape of that segment means everyone involved is looking at exactly the same evidence. My viewings of the videotape - at least a dozen times, including one time frame by frame - simply doesn't show me any "nudge" of any Air Force rescuer by Mr. Rivera. (Ms. Stanley declined my invitation to watch the tape with me.) I also reviewed all of the so-called outtakes shot by Mr. Rivera's camera crew at the Holy Angels Apartments in New Orleans on the morning of Sept. 4. Neither the video nor the audio revealed any nudge of an Air Force rescuer.

Stripped of its speculation in defense of Ms. Stanley, [NY Times Executive Editor] Mr. Keller's e-mail to me explaining his decision winds up acknowledging that the "nudge" she reported seeing is not shown in the videotape. Here, with my emphasis added, is that key paragraph of his e-mail:

"It was a semi-close call, in that the video does not literally show how Mr. Rivera insinuated himself between the wheelchair-bound storm victim and the Air Force rescuers who were waiting to carry her from the building. Whether Mr. Rivera gently edged the airman out of the way with an elbow (literally 'nudged'), or told him to step aside, or threw a body block, or just barged into an opening - it's hard to tell, since it happened just off-camera."

So if Ms. Stanley couldn't have seen the nudge, why not publish a correction? Mr. Keller's message unfortunately turns to a line of reasoning that raises, for me, a basic question of journalistic fairness. He suggests, "frankly," that in light of Mr. Rivera's reaction to the review, Ms. Stanley "would have been justified in assuming" - and therefore writing, apparently - that Mr. Rivera used "brute force" rather than merely a "nudge" on Sept. 4.

New York Times