Roger’s Rules

More wacko than wacky: The NY Times vs. The Washington Post on Rev. Wright

What, if anything, was objectionable about Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s performance at the National Press Club yesterday? If you learned about the event exclusively from reading The New York Times, you would probably believe that the only real issue was the damage it did to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. In an op-ed column today, Bob Herbert complained that Wright went to Washington “not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.” How’s that? You won’t find out from Herbert’s column. Indeed, you will sift in vain through our paper of record for some record of what Rev. Wright actually said. Alessandra Stanley seems to regard Obama’s former pastor as a charming eccentric, “cocky, defiant, declamatory, inflammatory and mischievous,” as she put it in her news report, a born performer who “revealed himself to be the compelling but slightly wacky uncle who unsettles strangers but really just craves attention.”

Aw, shucks. But before you run to fetch the old chap’s slippers, take a look at today’s Washington Post. There you’ll be reminded that Rev. Wright thinks that HIV was invented by the U.S. government to cull minorities. You’ll also learn that he admires Louis Farrakhan, the leader of Nation of Islam, and that he believes the United States is a “terrorist” state that got what it deserved on 9/11 (“America’s chickens are coming home to roost”). The Post, unlike the Times, quoted from some of Rev. Wright’s more incendiary sermons, e.g., the one in which he said that blacks, because of the legacy of slavery, should sing “God damn America” instead of “God Bless America.”

Pace Ms Stanley, this is more wacko than wacky. But perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Times‘s new memory-hole approach to the news is what it tells us about its approach to basic reporting of the facts. It’s no longer “all the news that fits” but “only news that sits well with our editorial line.”