Ed Driscoll

Questioning The Times' Timing

Ed Morrissey notes that New York TImes editor Bill Keller has lied about delaying publication of its paper’s NSA surveillance story until after the 2004 election, because he feared it would help President Bush:

Left-wing pundits and bloggers have insisted that Keller spiked the story to keep George Bush in office. Keller, however, has a different take on his decision. He insists that the news would have likely helped Bush rather than hurt him, and the public support for this program after its delayed revelation last December supports that analysis. John Kerry and the Democrats had castigated Bush for the lack of visible effort to find and track terrorists, and the program’s exposure would have forced Kerry to recant and suddenly argue that Bush had been too enthusiastic about fighting terrorism, a tough pirouette to execute in a grueling presidential campaign.

In the end, the final version of the story got prepared just days before the election, and Keller argues that a release at that point would have been “unfair” to all parties. It took several weeks for all of the political dust to settle once the article did come out. He may have a point, but then two related events took place: he delayed the release for over a year, and then Keller lied about the timing when he published it.

Calame asked Keller why he lied, although Calame didn’t quite put it that way. Keller says he used “inelegant” wording in his description, but clearly Keller wanted to keep that information secret. Besides, Keller’s job as editor depends on his use of words and the judgement of what and how to communicate. It’s clear that Keller wanted to keep people from learning that he had the chance to publish this before the election, and he deliberately did not. Why lie? He depends on the Left for his readership, and his reluctance to publish the article when Bush was vulnerable will likely lose his readership.

Keller has destroyed what’s left of his paper’s credibility. He lied to everyone about the timing of this publication, baldly and publicly. It also damages the credibility of everyone associated with this story. After all, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau certainly knew that the story was ready before the November 2nd election — and yet they chose to play along with Keller’s lies that the decision to spike it was in December 2004 rather than October and November.

The Paper of Record managed to utterly destroy the trust it still had left with readers across the political spectrum with this story.

Go back and reread that first sentence by Ed that I quoted. It seems utterly astonishing that far left readers believe that the Times would be sympathetic to President Bush–especially after the 2004 admission from its then-ombudsman admitting the paper’s longstanding biases, and this recent cri de coeur from its publisher. On the other hand, it does speak volumes for the speed at which Al Gore’s “Rightwing Media Bias” meme has spread through the cocoon.