The New York Times was routinely slow on any allegation of past adultery or even sexual assault by Bill Clinton, dismissing them as lacking convincing evidence, as "toxic waste" designed to damage his campaign. But when Democratic opponents of Sen. George Allen charged that Sen. George Allen used the word "nigger" in the past -- a very politically toxic matter -- the Times was quick to honor it as fit to print. On Tuesday, reporter David Kirkpatrick wrote a story for the top of page A-20 with two photos, headlined "2 Ex-Acquaintances of Senator Allen Say He Used Slurs."
The Times never did more than two paragraphs on the Allen campaign's distribution of an article in which Webb opposed women in combat. In a September 18 article touting Webb's "rising" campaign, Robin Toner put this in paragraphs 23 and 24: "In the past week, the Allen campaign has taken aim at Mr. Webb on two counts: highlighting his opposition, in an article he wrote 27 years ago, to women in combat and at the Naval Academy, and asserting that Mr. Webb has no right to use videotape of President Ronald Reagan praising him in a new television advertisement. On women in combat, Mr. Webb said that he was sorry for any pain his writing had caused, that times had changed, and that he should be judged by what he did in the intervening years to expand opportunities for women."
Kirkpatrick began: "Two former acquaintances of Senator George Allen said Monday that he used racist slurs in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a development that compounded accusations of racial insensitivity that have dogged his re-election campaign in Virginia. Mr. Allen denied that he had ever used such words." Kirkpatrick described the N-word clinically as "the most notorious epithet for blacks."
The story then used five paragraphs of anti-Allen allegations (noting their origin on Salon.com, but without describing the site as partisan or liberal) before returning to Allen’s denial, calling the charges "ludicrously false." Did the Times have any actual evidence of these N-words other than hearsay from the accusers? None was presented.
Kirkpatrick allowed several paragraphs of statements from Allen’s college teammates decrying the charges as false, but then launched into a long rehash of all of Allen’s racial and ethnic campaign problems so far:
Until a few weeks ago, Mr. Allen appeared to have a solid advantage in his re-election campaign, in which he faces Jim Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, who is running as a Democrat.
But insinuations of racial insensitivity have hovered in the background of the Allen campaign ever since The New Republic reported last spring that he had worn a Confederate flag pin in his yearbook picture. After that report, two odd episodes in the space of a few weeks this summer prompted new questions and cut into his lead.
The first occurred at a campaign appearance where Mr. Allen called a young Democratic operative of Indian descent "macaca" and welcomed him "to America." Liberals called the term a racist slur derived from the name of a type of monkey. Mr. Allen apologized for any offense and said he had simply made up the word.
A few weeks later Mr. Allen, who is Presbyterian, grew angry at a reporter’s question about whether his mother had been born Jewish. Mr. Allen later said that after the question came up, his mother told him for the first time that her family was indeed Jewish. His subsequent statements about the matter — attesting that he still ate ham sandwiches, for example — appeared awkward, even to fellow Republicans.
"His mishandling of a name-calling incident, and his ham-handed denial and subsequent revelation that his mother was raised Jewish, have almost eliminated him from the field of serious presidential candidates and even jeopardized his Senate seat," Matthew Continetti of the conservative Weekly Standard wrote in the magazine’s current cover story, "George Allen Monkeys Around."
Previous accusations about Mr. Allen’s racial views have centered mostly on symbolism, especially involving the Confederacy.
In addition to the pin in his high school yearbook picture, for example, he later displayed a Confederate flag on his living room wall. As governor of Virginia, he declared a Confederate History Month without reference to slavery. He made a cameo appearance as a Confederate officer in the film "Gods and Generals." And he once opposed the creation of a Virginia state holiday to memorialize the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Only then, after 18 paragraphs, did Kirkpatrick find it worth noting that one accuser, Christopher Taylor, said he was a politically active Democrat. The other, R. Kendall Shelton, claimed to be an independent. Kirkpatrick did not do the legwork that the Washington Post did: "Shelton is listed as ‘unaffiliated’ in voter registration records but voted in the state's Republican primaries this year. He was registered as a Democrat from 1988 through 2004, according to the Henderson County, N.C., elections office."
Kirkpatrick ended the piece with more allegations by Taylor about his visit to Allen’s home to get a puppy (where he allegedly heard the N-word). The Times made no attempt to include the rebuttal from Allen’s first wife, as the Washington Post reported:
"Anne Waddell confirmed that Taylor came to their house to pick a puppy but said: ‘I can say with absolute certainty that his recollection that George said anything at all that could be considered racially insensitive is completely false. He would never utter such a word.’"
Now remember how the Times handled hot potatoes for Bill Clinton's personal life. When Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation of sexual assault by Bill Clinton emerged in 1999 in a Wall Street Journal article by Dorothy Rabinowitz, the Times dismissed the Broaddrick story in a media critique, lamenting that "smaller outlets on the Internet and cable television" are "overwhelming the slower and more sober judgments of mainstream news organizations." They called the Wall Street Journal editorial page "one of the nation's most conservative and a strident critic of Mr. Clinton."
Times reporters Felicity Barringer and David Firestone explained their paper was passed the Broaddrick rape allegations "in the waning days of the 1992 presidential campaign. Regarding it as the kind of toxic waste traditionally dumped just before Election Day, both newspapers passed on the story." But "sober" news outlets were superseded by the new media.
But it was the "toxic waste" haters at the Times that touted without verification Kitty Kelley's book of unproven gossip about Nancy Reagan on April 7, 1991. Maureen Dowd's front-page splash relayed "that both the Reagans had extramarital affairs, and that Mrs. Reagan had a long-term affair with Frank Sinatra. Ms. Kelley also writes that the Reagans once smoked marijuana provided by Alfred S. Bloomingdale, the department store heir and founder of Diners' Club, at a dinner party in the late 1960's, when Mr. Reagan was Governor of California."
It looks like David Kirkpatrick is following in Maureen Dowd's footsteps as a willing distributor of vicious Democratic gossip.