Howard Kurtz Troubled by 'Over the Top Times-Bashing'

The criticism of the New York Times for its bank-monitoring story has gotten so bad, says Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz, that "I think those folks would repeal the First Amendment tomorrow if they could," he says, speaking of conservative criticism in the blogosphere and elsewhere.

Kurtz holds the classic MSM belief that First Amendment = New York Times, that you can't have one without the other. Since the New York Times is the very embodiment of one part of the Constitution, it is equal to President Bush, who is merely the embodiment of another part.

Man, I have never seen this kind of Times-bashing before.

There is one heckuva conservative backlash building against the New York Times for publishing that piece about the administration's secret access to banking records in terror investigations.

I saw it on "Fox News Sunday," when Republican Rep. Peter King called for the newspaper to be prosecuted.

I saw it on my CNN show, when David Frum likened what the Times did to publishing troop movements in time of war -- about as serious a charge as you can hurl against a newspaper -- and Frank Rich responded that war supporters were using the press as a scapegoat and besides, didn't the terrorists already know that the United States was trying to monitor their financial transactions?

Radio commentator Tammy Bruce likened the Times to the Rosenbergs, prompting Fox host David Asman to ask whether she was suggesting execution as an appropriate penalty.

And the conservative blogosphere is on fire.

To be sure, the L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal, along with The Washington Post, also published stories last Friday on the classified program. But the NYT clearly was out in front and, in fact, held its piece for several weeks while dealing with the administration's objections.

What we're seeing is a there-they-go-again reaction on the right that is the culmination of building frustrations against the MSM in general and the Times in particular over the disclosure of classified information. And, of course, you've got President Bush calling the paper's action "shameful" and Tony Snow saying the Times needs to think hard about whether the public's right to know "might override somebody's right to live."

Some of the outside commentary is so over the top that I think those folks would repeal the First Amendment tomorrow if they could. And most of those proclaiming horror at the leaking of classified info were willing to give the White House a pass for the outing of the covert Valerie Plame.

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