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Sunday, October 17, 2004 12:36:56 AM

Re: Chris McConnel post# 74236

Post# of 495952
IS The New York Times systematically biased against President Bush?

Of course it is.


By Bob Kohn

I was recently introduced to a radio audience as someone who hates The New York Times. Hate was too strong a word; I love this newspaper, and if you are reading this, you love it, too. To love this paper is to care what happens to it. We want it to be there for us - always - especially every Sunday morning with that cup of coffee, and we hope to hand the experience down to our children, so that they too may be informed and delighted by its pages.

Several weeks ago, Daniel Okrent, this paper's public editor, courageously stated the obvious: of course The New York Times is a liberal newspaper
("Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" July 25). And he wasn't just talking about an editorial page he finds "thoroughly saturated in liberal theology" or the Sunday carvings of Frank Rich, who "slices up" President Bush and friends in the Arts & Leisure section.

More incisively, the public editor demonstrated how The Times - in its purportedly objective news pages - leans left on the social issues, showing by example how The Times presents same-sex marriages in a tone that approaches "cheerleading." Now, turning to politics, the public editor would have us believe there is no systematic bias against either presidential candidate.

This divide-and-conquer approach - separating The Times's advocacy of liberal causes from its campaign coverage - masks the powerful means this paper employs to undermine the Bush campaign
.

Same-sex marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, gun control, environmental regulation, capital punishment and faith-based initiatives - are these not issues in the presidential election? Hoist with his own petard, the public editor has already demonstrated how The Times, by advocating its liberal social agenda, systematically slants the news against President Bush.

Now, let's assume that what the public editor asserted here last week is correct - that The Times's campaign coverage, viewed in its entirety, is providing a fair presentation of President Bush's views. What does such fairness mean when the very same news pages are advocating the opposite?

To readers, it means that President Bush is wrong, not only because the editorial page of The Times says he's wrong, but because the president's views fly in the face of what are being presented as objective facts. No technique of bias is more powerful - more useful as a means of influence - than presenting a candidate's unadulterated views through a prism of advocacy passed off as hard news.

And the practice is by no means limited to the social questions. The justification for the Iraq war, now John Kerry's top campaign issue, provides a poignant backdrop for how The Times systematically uses its front page to undercut President Bush's credibility
. In fact, the bias against Bush on Iraq has become so acute that two of the paper's own Op-Ed columnists have established a virtual annex to the public editor's office.

When The Times in a banner headline this summer declared ("Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie," June 17) William Safire fired back: "All wrong." While Republicans charged The Times with bias, Safire blamed the Sept. 11 commission. I would have gone along with Safire had the paper's editors corrected the story in a typeface as large as the one they had used to distort it. They haven't. Not even in small type.

When The Times front page recently proclaimed, ("U.S. Report Finds Iraqis Eliminated Illicit Arms in 90's," Oct. 7) David Brooks, referring to the general media coverage, came unglued: "I have never in my life seen a government report so distorted by partisan passions." Despite Mr. Brooks's efforts, a report that made it "crystal clear" why Saddam Hussein had to go instead became a talking point for Kerry - courtesy of The New York Times
.

What kind of newspaper will we leave to our children? If you still don't believe it's the wrong kind, put yourself in my slippers: imagine how your Sunday morning coffee encounters with The Times would sour if the front page of the Arts & Leisure section were turned over to, say, Ann Coulter. Is that the kind of paper you want? That's the paper you have.


The public editor serves as the readers' representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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