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Friedman and the NY Times: A Love Story

People reveal themselves over time. That was the sage advice I got from an old mentor.

NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman just revealed himself in spades. Actually, I’ve been “on” to Friedman for a long time, going back to the 1980s. Journalism is assumed to be about truth and being a watchdog on untruth, but narcissism constantly gets in the way. I think he just got so cockily resilient from criticism, he pulled the curtain in a revealing way he did not mean to trigger.

But there is a bigger issue. The “truthiness” of the NY Times itself. This is not a recent problem. The Times, which prides itself as the newspaper of record, the Old Grey Lady, the newspaper whose mast said, “all the news that’s fit to print,” the newspaper that prides itself as setting the bar for all the rest of the media, that NY Times, has always had a problem with the truth. It reported, beside knowing better, that starvation of the Ukrainians in the 1930s was much less than actual and that the little that they counted occurred without any deliberate attempt at a purposeful policy by Stalin and his administration. We’re talking here about the deaths of upwards of 7.5 million Ukrainians. The well-named Ukrainian breadbasket was fleeced by food exports out of the Ukraine under Soviet control, resulting in the starvation of this cradle of food. Yet the Times did not paint this picture, despite their castigation on this point by other news outlets. The Times’ Walter Duranty even won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, a prize the Times after the war played down because of the shame of NOT reporting the facts straight. There was a serious but failed attempt to take that Pulitzer away, and the Times did not object, nor defend Duranty. There are many instances where we can see the “truthiness” issue of the Times years after it’s own reporting.

The current problem is more immediate. Friedman castigated Israel’s PM Netanyahu for being resoundingly welcome in the US Congress because they were bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby. He’s made many “unhelpful” statements, but this latest one jumps the shark.

Worse still, when the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris revolted with a scathing critique of Friedman, the Times published an edited, toned down version meant, obviously, to blunt the growing chorus of criticism aimed at one of its star columnists. You can read David Harris’ note on the incident below.

Has the Times no shame? No, apparently not. They have also jumped the shark.

Read the dust-up below:

New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman Crossed a Line

David Harris

December 19, 2011

Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, crossed a line in his recent op-ed, “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir.”

Shockingly, he wrote: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

We submitted a letter-to-the-editor to the Times the very same day.

The good news is the paper published an AJC letter, the only one about Friedman’s column, as it surprisingly turned out.

The bad news is they cut out the heart of it.


Read the rest of David Harris’ piece here, at AJC’s blog.

About Stan Kreis

Stan Kreis has degrees in sociology, economics and accounting. Therefore he is wise, literate, financially sound and married to Kathryn Bernheimer (she would never marry anyone without such credentials). Grave marker: "the world was his oyster, unfortunately, he ate it and got stomach cramps."

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