I agree with Rick’s evaluation of public editor Arthur Brisbane’s lame defense of the way the New York Times downplayed its coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress. Rather than a stiff critic of the paper, Brisbane is yet another company apologist. Daniel Okrent, the first person to hold the job that in other organizations is called an ombudsman, took his responsibility to speak up for the readers and for the ethics of journalism seriously. All of his successors have avoided challenging the paper and its editors the way he did. So it is little surprise that Brisbane would choose not to take issue with such an obvious mistake.
But the problem with Brisbane’s column was bigger than his decision to defend burying the coverage of Netanyahu’s speech. As bad as that was, it was nothing compared to the most egregious example of Times bias about Israel that week. The worst such piece was Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner’s atrocious analysis of the Israeli reaction to Netanyahu’s triumphant trip to the United States. Though Netanyahu’s popularity ratings soared after the trip, during which he successfully evaded Obama’s ambush on the issue of Israel’s borders, Bronner claimed it was a failure. His sole evidence for this startling conclusion came from recycled quotes from left-wing Israeli columnists. For a proper evisceration of Bronner’s atrocity, read this admirable post by COMMENTARY’s Evelyn Gordon.
Agenda journalism at the Times is more than a matter of mere article placement. As the Bronner piece on Netanyahu’s trip demonstrated, the paper has long since graduated into agitprop style distortions of the truth.