Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New York Times Shills for Ifill

The first defense is that the world (presumably including McCain) had notice of all this back in August. (Not a bad argument.) The second defense is that this will make Ifill less, not more, harsh with Palin, and so it should help, not hurt, McCain. (Probably also true.) The third defense is that only "conservative" websites have protested. (True, but sad, and, frankly, irrelevant if this is an actual ethical conflict, and it surely is.)  Fourth, we're told that a journalism spokesperson has concluded that,“I don’t necessarily see an absolute conflict of interest, it’s not like it’s his biography.” (We could write pages on how incoherent that sentence is, never mind the missing period or semicolon.  Imagine a law professor saying, "I don't see an absolute conflict; it's not like the prosecutor is writing the judge's biography.") And finally, we are told, notwithstanding this conflict, that she will be "honorable and fair." All this is reported as "news." Nykils, still see objectivity here? This reads more like an Obama press release. You know why? Because it is likely lifted from one that was generated in the last 24 hours to deal with the story. I am impressed with the Obama campaign. Nothing is permitted to linger for an instant. That, of course, is the campaign's job. It is the slavishness of the NYT that should be disturbing to candid citizens.  


  1. AP says: "The host of PBS’ “Washington Week” and senior correspondent on “The NewsHour” said she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book. The commission had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for John McCain’s campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages."

  2. Well, the WSJ appears to have nothing on this story this morning (at least, not in the main news section). The NYT has an article on page A23; it appears to cover the matter reasonably well.

    It emerges that this book of Ifill's has been public knowledge since June (although it was not public at the time she was appointed moderator of this debate).

    The funniest comment comes at the end of the article, when John Weaver says, "All this hand-wringing, excuse-making and whining keeps McCain's economic recovery plan away from the public."

    McCain's campaign has been one long series of changes in the subject, and side issues, that have somehow kept his "plans" from being given much play, let alone being scrutinized. Why Weaver thinks such scrutiny would benefit McCain is anyone's guess.

  3. Ironically, McCain seems to be the only Republican who seems not to care about the issue. Maybe he does think it will help Palin.

  4. McCain probably hasn't been told about the matter, yet. Or maybe he "hasn't had a chance to read it."

  5. There are three issues here: 1. the moderator’s bias 2. The media’s failure to report it. 3. The media’s “liberal” bias.

    1. Is she biased? Yes. What were the chances that an employee of PBS wouldn’t be an Obama supporter? Since FDR the democrats have been the party of government employees as well as the party of the intelligentsia. But this woman’s bias is more than ideological, she stands to gain financially. OK, these things are true, but you have to weigh there importance. I simply do not believe it will affect the debate very much. Should she recuse? No, because it will be more attention wasted on nonsense issues.

    2. I would like to believe that the media has not closely covered the story because they don’t want to waste time on nonsense issues. I don’t believe that. Maybe they haven’t covered it because there is a tacit understanding that all negative impressions of the Obama campaign should be downplayed. Yeah right! That’s another tin foil moment. At a time when these papers are struggling to make money, all they care about is circulation. They did not highlight the story because it was not all that interesting a story. Palin’s debate record, SNL sketches, polling data – these things are news.

    3. Right now, I can’t get into issue three very deeply. I stand by the statements I made in previous comments. The important point is this: the negative effects of the media’s slight, aggregate bias in favor of liberal politics is far outweighed by the negative effects of the nonsense spewed by conservative hacks who are able to counter the refutations of legitimate media sources with a perpetual accusation of bias.

  6. SNL sketches are "news?" Since when?

    "They did not highlight the story because it was not all that interesting a story."

    Exactly. Not interesting to Obama supporters. But in the rest of the world--corporate, legal, and yes, journalism--it is per se impermissible to preside over a matter in which you have a financial interest. This is more than bias, or the appearance of impropriety. It is a disqualifying conflict. That the story is such a yawner makes my point exactly. If the shoe were on the other foot, the moderator would be forced to recuse herself. Period. Even if it is unlikely that it would make a difference. I mean, this is Ethics 101. If you are on the board of a company, and you want to sell 100 acres in Manhattan to the company for $1.00 (a good deal for sure), you simply cannot vote on it, even if it's perfectly clear that the deal is good for the company. This is just one of the most bedrock propositions of professional Ethics. There are no known exceptions to this rule. Until now, I guess. The "Age of Obama." Indeed!

  7. Tell me SNL isn't news.

    From CNN

    The adviser suggested that the campaign's efforts at damage control after Palin's interview with Couric may have been hampered by the fact that the governor wasn't doing more friendly interviews to counter her flubs on Russia and the congressional bailout bill, which have reverberated throughout the blogosphere and even turned Palin into a punch line on "Saturday Night Live."

  8. Pericles: in your comment of 12:58 PM on 10/2, you continue to insist that the appropriate comparison for Ifill's role as debate moderator is with someone who will be deciding something, like a Board member voting. Why do you continue to insist on something that is simply wrong?

  9. I insist on it because I appreciate the influence of rhetoric, as I know you do at more candid moments. Please tell me you do not pretend that a moderator could not powerfully influence the outcome of a debate, or even an election. I know you know this, and so I am astonished that you appear to state otherwise. I will later provide a post about this effect; it is easy to demonstrate it in at least one instance tonight that, under normal circumstances, could have mattered powerfully and was not accidental.


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