Suppose, for a moment, that you carefully read The New York Times, never missing a day, in the firm belief that the Paper of Record will tell you everything you need to know about the world.
Assume, further, that you are so satisfied with the Times that you do not read any other newspapers, magazines or Internet reports, listen to any news on the radio or watch any news programs on television. For you, the Times is it.
If you were such a person, you would have been surprised to learn recently that there was some sort of controversy surrounding Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean. It seems Dean has said a number of things that people considered controversial — so much so that some of his fellow Democrats became openly concerned.
Now, exactly what it was that Dean said, you don’t know. And, as a devout reader of the Times, you still don’t.
You do not know, for example, that in the last week of January, while campaigning for the top job at the DNC, Dean said, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.”
January passed, and the Times did not report Dean’s words. February passed, with no word. Then March. Then April.
Finally, on May 22, Dean appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and host Tim Russert asked him about it.
“Do you really hate Republicans?” Russert asked.
“That was a little out of context,” Dean answered. “I don’t hate Republicans as individuals. But I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country. I really do.”
The next day, May 23, the Times ran a story about the “Meet the Press” interview. But the story did not tell readers that Dean, whom the Times called “feisty and unbowed,” had once said, “I hate the Republicans ...” Instead, the paper quoted what Dean said in his defense.
“Dr. Dean offered a blistering review of the Republican party,” the Times reported, noting that Dean told Russert, “I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country, I really do.”
Then, on June 10, the Times published another story on Dean’s comments, this time after Dean received a photo-op talking-to from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
In that story, the Times daintily paraphrased Dean’s comments, reporting that he has tossed “sweeping barbs” at Republicans recently, including a statement that he “hates what they represent.”
Now if you had read just the Times, you would not know — and you still would not know, to this day — that Dean had said, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.” The Times has never reported what Dean said.
The same is true for some of Dean’s other off-the-wall comments.
For example, Russert asked Dean about a statement in February in which he said, of Democrats and Republicans, “This is a struggle of good and evil, and we’re the good.” “Do you consider [Republicans] evil?” Russert asked. Dean did not answer the question.
That exchange did not merit inclusion in the Times’ May 23 or June 10 articles. In fact, the Times has never reported Dean’s “struggle of good and evil” comment. Not in February. Not in March. Not in April. Not in May. Not in June.
But perhaps those are just two isolated incidents. Surely the Paper of Record has followed the chairman of the Democratic National Committee closely enough to report some of his most notable words.
Surely, for example, the paper reported that, in March, Dean called Republicans “brain dead.”
In fact, the Times did not report that.
OK. But surely the paper reported that Dean, when speaking at a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union in Minnesota in April, drew “howls of laughter by mimicking a drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh,” according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In fact, the Times did not report that — at least not until its May 23 article on Dean’s “Meet the Press” appearance, when the paper referred to an unspecified occasion in which Dean made “mocking mention of Mr. Limbaugh’s addiction to painkillers in an effort to portray him as a hypocrite.”
OK. But surely the paper reported that Dean, last month in a speech to Democrats in Massachusetts, said of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), “I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers.”
In fact, the Times never reported what Dean said, just Dean’s defense of his words on “Meet the Press.”
You get the idea.
This is a paper that employs a reporter whose sole job is to cover conservative activists (and by the way, why hasn’t it assigned one exclusively to cover liberal activists?). How can it so habitually fail to cover the newsworthy doings of the chairman of the Democratic Party?
What would be the problem with simply reporting what Howard Dean says? Wouldn’t that news be fit to print?