Jewish World Review March 6, 2002/ 22 Adar 5762


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Consumer Reports

Slinging mud at The Times -- IT TAXES one's imagination, but I don't think I've ever read anything in The New York Times as filthy as Frank Rich's March 2 column in which he exploits the execution of Daniel Pearl to smear Bernard Goldberg, author of the bestseller ""Bias."

Rich begins his desperate essay by noting that the night before Pearl's death was revealed, Goldberg was hawking his book on C-SPAN. He seethes: "Mr. Goldberg, you see, had once written an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal criticizing his network for what he saw as its liberal bias, and the price he paid for this act of courage was steep. His fellow employees considered him radioactive. They treated him like a pariah. And then came the ultimate indignity: Dan Rather stopped talking to him! Mr. Goldberg might still be telling his tale of woe, had not terrorism intervened and rendered his tale of self-martyrdom on behalf of Mr. Pearl's newspaper ludicrous. The savage murder of Mr. Pearl, like the terrorist carnage of Sept. 11, is an instant reality check."

A few facts. Goldberg didn't write Bias "on behalf" of the Journal. It's an account of the author's blackballing at CBS-where he'd worked since 1972, winning seven Emmy awards for the network-after questioning the left-leaning slant of its news division. As Goldberg has made clear on his media tour-I smell sour grapes on Rich's part since his recent memoir Ghost Light bombed-he doesn't believe there's a premeditated anticonservative cabal among dinosaur-celebrities like Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw.

Instead, as he explains, it's even worse: these men and their affluent colleagues in television and at elite newspapers like the Times and Washington Post don't even realize how they distort the news. They're ensconced in an exclusive bubble, a party-picture world of cocktail and dinner parties in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Georgetown, where everyone accepts as "normal" universal truths such as George Bush "stole" the election, pro-life citizens are "kooks" and affirmative action is an essential entitlement. Unless, of course, it keeps their private-school educated children out of Harvard, Yale or Brown.

Rich doesn't mention that Michael Moore, another wealthy "populist," kept up his own round of tv appearances in support of his successful book Stupid White Men, even after the "instant reality check" of Pearl's murder. Moore is far more hysterical in his political views than Goldberg-a garden-variety liberal for most of his life who hadn't ever voted for a Republican until at least 1996-professing on CNN and Fox that Bush will be forced to resign shortly because of the Enron financial scandal, among other acid-flashback crimes the author fabricates.


I don't fault Moore for sucking up to Stupid White Men like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity: he's a crafty self-publicist who knows what it takes to sell books. Rich is too lost in his own world of sitcoms and Broadway musicals to even consider the concept of marketing. But because he writes for the mega-circulation Times, his views are actually taken seriously by large numbers of delusional Americans.

Rich has nothing more between his ears than say, Paper co-editor David Hershkovits, but the latter's publication reaches such a tiny number of readers-most of whom probably couldn't name Bush's defense secretary-that his pink-elephant tirades don't amount to much.

In Paper's current issue, Hershkovits blasts Rudy Giuliani (saying the former mayor should've "pump[ed] many millions more than we currently do into improving public education," oblivious that such an expenditure would wind up in the teachers' union's already-bulging wallet), and then repeats the standard, no-facts take on Bush. He writes: "Then we have President Bush. Read my lips: E-N-R-O-N... Enron had a free run of the White House and access to everyone in the administration through a combination of campaign contributions, charity work, and well-oiled consultants. Lots of companies contribute to politicians' campaigns, but very few are on a first-name basis with the president, as is Enron chairman Kenneth Lay. Believe me, it's only going to get worse as scandalous revelations keep mounting."

How an aging New York City fashion/nightclub shill knows so much about the White House isn't relevant; he's just foaming at the mouth. And incidentally, David, do you think Bill Clinton wasn't on a first-name basis with David Geffen and Barbra Streisand?


Anyway, Rich, the self-appointed pop culture czar at the Times then moves on to another scolding of President Bush, coming up with this bizarre theory: "[Bush] had advertised his own distaste for the press by publicly brandishing a copy of 'Bias' a month ago, but...turned up front-and-center to pay mournful tribute to Mr. Pearl last week. The president's sentiments were no doubt sincere, as is his muscular pursuit of the killers. But there is still scant evidence to suggest that he condones the idea of a free press."

It's true that Bush doesn't like reporters as a rule, just like Clinton didn't before him, but the notion that he's against a "free press" is asinine. During the President's recent Asian trip, while Times reporters joined their European allies in promoting the ridiculous idea that he was backing down from his "axis of evil" doctrine, the most significant engagement on his schedule was given little attention. Appearing at Tsinghua University in China, Bush delivered the boldest speech by a U.S. president in that country, eloquently explaining the virtues of a true democracy, including the rights to dissent and to pursue your own religious beliefs.

Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, writing in the March 4 Weekly Standard, were among the few pundits who grasped the enormity of the occasion. They wrote: "Every Chinese citizen who heard Bush's words understood the invidious comparison he was drawing between American freedom and Chinese tyranny. Everyone heard his message: that the tyranny under which they suffer must be changed or brought down. And to the old argument so often proffered by Chinese tyrants and their American apologists-that China is not 'ready' for democracy-well, Bush had an answer for that, too. 'Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos, but it does not, because freedom means more than every man for himself.'"

If Bernard Goldberg needs another anecdote about the elite media's bias he could include Rich's distortion of which well-connected men profited from Global Crossing before that company's recent bankruptcy. The jaundiced columnist cites former President Bush, who accepted stock in lieu of an $80,000 speaking fee for the company, which (according to Business Week) appreciated to $4.5 million. Obviously, because Rich hews to the Times' selective agenda, he doesn't mention that DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe invested $100,000 in Global Crossing and later cashed out for $18 million.

The columnist's disgusting conclusion is a simplistic view of a Stupid White Hack. He writes: "...[T]he Bush administration is betting, not incorrectly, that the overall news culture is swinging back to its pre-9/11 bias, which is resolutely in favor of fun. Gary is back. Monica is back. Even Bernard Goldberg, for all his public griping, is back from his gulag, working as a correspondent for HBO Sports. Only Daniel Pearl is gone."

This kind of callous disrespect for the slain Wall Street Journal reporter, cynically invoked for one lousy column, ought to earn Rich membership in an exclusive men's club Down Below when his number is called, with buddies like Roy Cohn, Sidney Blumenthal, Chris Lehane, assorted Kennedys, J. Edgar Hoover, H.R. Haldeman, Paul Begala, W.J. Clinton and Andrea Dworkin.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith