Peter Bart of Variety writes that it didn’t end after Howell Raines left:
[The Times] has found its entire experience with Mel Gibson to be a painful one. Prior to its release (and prior to anyone on the paper seeing it), the Times declared “The Passion” an outrage and threat to social harmony. After its release, the Times quoted the predictions of unnamed power brokers in Hollywood that Gibson would be blackballed by the film community, his career ruined.
As predictions go, the Times’ entire litany could stand major “correction.” Despite the fact that Frank Rich compared it to “a porn movie,” by the end of its run “The Passion” could rank second only to “Titanic” as the highest-grossing movie ever made. Further, there have been no signs of anti-Semitic outbreaks tied to the film’s release — not even in places like France and Argentina.
As for Gibson, there’s no indication that his viability as an actor or filmmaker has been compromised. Indeed, Hollywood reveres success, and Gibson’s personal take from his film — somewhere north of $400 million — will surely be history’s biggest. That makes Gibson not an outlaw, but a Hollywood folk hero.
It is not my intent here to indulge in Times-bashing. I spent eight very happy years on the Times staff, and I respect that paper’s unique role in our journalistic establishment.
Still, the Times has vastly stepped up its coverage of pop culture and, in doing so, seems to be bending its normal rules of journalistic fairness. “The Passion” is a prime example.
Bart adds, “There are legitimate disagreements about the film’s take on biblical history. What is beyond dispute, however, is that “The Passion” is a true phenomenon in the history of motion pictures. As such, it is “news” and deserving of objective reporting by the media. Even by the Times.”