Friday, January 16, 2004
Bias and The New York Times: When the latest Times story regarding the recess appointment of Judge Charles Pickering came across the wires earlier this evening I had to shake my head in disgust. The version I was looking at is known as the "Times Express" version -- an early, shorter version of a longer story that would move in full later.
What angered me was the fact that the abridged version of the piece contained all of the Democrats attack points on Pickering, but no defense.
Bush said he was forced to use his constitutional authority because, "a minority of Democratic senators has been using unprecedented obstructionist tactics to prevent him and other qualified individuals from receiving up-or-down votes. Their tactics are inconsistent with the Senate's constitutional responsibility and are hurting our judicial system."
Senate Democrats argued that Pickering did not deserve elevation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because he wrote an article as a young man recommending ways to strengthen Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws; left the Democratic Party in 1964 when it split along racial lines and, more recently, presided over a 1994 trial in which he took extraordinary steps to reduce the sentence of a man convicted
in a cross-burning incident.
Democrats, who have asserted that Bush has been trying to pack the federal courts with staunch conservative ideologues, blocked some nominees during his first two years in office when they controlled the Senate. When Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2002 by a narrow margin, Democrats then resorted to the threat of filibusters, or extended debates, to block the nominees. Although Republicans held 51 seats, a slim majority, they could not muster the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.
What should have made it even into this abbreviated version was a paragraph like this one that did appear -- though too far down -- in the full version on the Times Web site:
Mr. Bush and Republican senators replied that the judge's record was being distorted. They said that in recent decades he had been a force for racial reconciliation in his home state and had strong support among local African-Americans. His actions in the cross-burning case, they said, were motivated by a sense that prosecutors had mishandled the case and let the principal offender off lightly.
But even this one leaves out what should be a prominent, pertinent fact. In both versions the Times refers to a legal theory paper Pickering wrote while he was a law school student -- more than 40 years ago -- outlining flaws in Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws and ways to strengthen them. Fine, if the Times believes that is evidence of some racial animosity on Pickering's part they are right to include it in every story that is written on the subject.
However, if the Times is going to go back more than 40 years to his law school days, then they should also include the fact that as district attorney in 1967 Pickering testified in a criminal trial against the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan -- and was later defeated for re-election because of it.
To not acknowledge this brave, honorable act, the Times does Pickering wrong.
Is there really any doubt that if the parties were switched, and a Democrat judicial nominee had stood up to the Klan, in 1967, in Mississippi, that it would be the first thing mentioned in his defense?
Liberal media? Yes.