The New York Times: The “newspaper of record”… some record

Published 15 years ago -  - 15y ago 19


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Image courtesy of sam chills under CC BY 2.0.

The New York Times likes to be known as “the newspaper of record.” And what a record they have.

I am reminded of that record,, which I’ll get to shortly, by the latest example of the Times’ peculiar form of journalism, the revelation that their star economics expert, Paul Krugman – a vehement critic of President Bush and an advocate of the provably false accusation that the Bush administration was in the pay of the Enron Corporation – was himself in the pay of that company.

Moreover, while it has been shown that no matter how much money Enron and it’s boss, Ken Lay shoveled into the Bush campaign coffers, they got absolutely nothing – nada – in return. The same cannot be said for Krugman.

Last week, in a display of unmitigated chutzpah, Professor Krugman dared to ask in his Times op-ed column “Why did the Administration dissemble so long about its contacts with Enron?”

He should have been explaining why he had never revealed his own “contacts with Enron.”

In the words of National Post columnist Mark Steyn, one of the most elegant writers around today, Krugman: “has been one of the media’s most ferocious Bush bashers and, since Enron went belly up, a tireless peddler of Bush-Enron linkage. Indeed, he has written about little else in recent weeks, always interpreting the scandal in line with his long-held beliefs about greedy plutocrats, slavering Republicans on the teats of their big donors, and helpless little guys getting stiffed by both. ”

The Times now admits that in 1999 Krugman pocketed a cool $50,000 for serving on something called Enron’s “advisory board.”

“What did this board do?” asked Steyn.

Said Krugman “This was an advisory panel that had no function that I was aware of. My later interpretation is that it was all part of the way they built an image. All in all, I was just another brick in the wall.”

In other words, they gave him all that money for doing nothing. As he put in a fit of modesty and humility:  “I was not an unknown college professor. On the contrary, I was a hot property, very much in demand as a speaker to business audiences: I was routinely offered as much as $50,000 to speak to investment banks and consulting firms. They thought I might tell them something useful.”

That is to say, he got that nice piece of change for his celebrity value – something like having a shapely Hollywood starlet draped over the hood in an auto commercial – she’s paid for being pretty, not for her knowledge of automotive mechanics.

He was paid solely for being “a hot property.”

Not quite.

How does Krugman explain that little piece of puffery cited by columnist Andrew Sullivan when, as Steyn put it “Krugman gleefully mocked Business Week for hailing Enron as “more akin to Goldman Sachs than to Consolidated Edison” — the quintessential old-economy electric company. But, in fact, it was Krugman himself who’d made this preposterous comparison, in an article for Fortune in May 1999 written while on the Enroll payroll and stopping just short of the full Monica:

“Enron does own gas fields, pipelines, and utilities. But it is not, and does not try to be, vertically integrated: It buys and sells gas both at the wellhead and the destination, leases pipeline (and electrical-transmission) capacity both to and from other companies, buys and sells electricity, and in general acts more like a broker and market maker than a traditional corporation. It’s sort of like the difference between your father’s bank, which took money from its regular depositors and lent it out to its regular customers, and Goldman Sachs … The biggest force has been a change in ideology, the shift to pro-market policies … a combination of deregulation that lets new competitors enter and ‘common carrier’ regulation that prevents middlemen from playing favorites, making freewheeling markets possible.”

“Which is nothing like anything he’s said in the last two months,”Steyn commented.

Let’s be clear about this: if the Time had one shred of journalistic integrity, they’d fire Krugman out of hand. But then, if they had that shred of journalistic integrity they would have fired Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews when these two scoundrels were busy promoting the likes of Joseph  Stalin and Fidel Castro.

Instead they nominated Duranty for a Pulitzer prize and kept his portrait in a place of honor while refusing to send the prize back to the Pulitzer Prize committee.

Wrote Ronald Radosh in FrontPage Magazine: “… The New York Times has for decades revealed somewhat of a soft spot for Communists and the governments they created. In the 1930’s, it won the first Pulitzer prize for foreign reporting from its Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty, a man known fondly as “Stalin’s journalist” for his propaganda filled reports denying the Soviet created famine in the Ukraine and praising the success of collectivization.

“Then in 1959, Times reporter Herbert Matthews fell hook, line and sinker for Fidel Castro’s exaggerated claims about the number of guerrilla fighters he had in his ranks, and his reports cemented Castro’s following and reputation. After Castro’s victory, National Review ran its now famous cover of Castro, with the Times’ then advertising slogan superimposed over his face, “I got my job through The New York Times.” And in the 1960s the paper ran Harrison Salisbury’s much praised reports about the effects of American bombing on North Vietnam, stories that depended in part on false data given to him by the Communist journalist Wilfred Burchett.”

In awarding the Pulitzer Prize to Duranty The Pulitzer committee said his stories on dictator Joseph Stalin’s economic plans were “marked by scholarship, profundity, impartiality, sound judgment and exceptional clarity…”

They were also outright falsehoods.

Duranty, wrote columnist Joseph Alsop “covered up the horrors and deluded an entire generation by prettifying Soviet realities….”

In the book, “Stalin’s Apologist” the sordid Duranty story was  told by   historian  S.J. Taylor, and published by the prestigious Oxford University Press. As Accuracy in Media has reported  Sally Taylor, ” demolishes the reputation of a premier New York Times reporter of the 1920s and 1930s.”

“As a main source of information for the leftists of the 1930s,” Taylor wrote, “Duranty, told them what they wanted to hear, fanning the flames of Western Communism. Everybody quoted Duranty–Edmund Wilson, Beatrice Webb, the entire group of intellectuals who admired the Soviet experiment…His stubborn chronicle of Soviet achievements made him the doyen of left-leaning Westerners who believed that what happened inside Soviet Russia held the key to the future for the rest of the world.”

“Duranty was not a pleasant man. British by birth, as a young journalist he was a devotee of Satanism, opium, and sexual kinkiness (specifically, a liking for a menage a trois with his notorious mentor Aleister Crowley),”   Taylor reported. ” As a World War I reporter Duranty earned a reputation as a brain picker who hung around press bars rather than doing his own work. He enhanced his unsavory personal reputation in Moscow. Despite the loss of a foot in a train accident causing him to clump about on a heavy wooden limb, he was a chronic womanizer who abandoned both his wife and a Russian mistress (the latter with a child).” Many Times editors mistrusted him thoroughly, but they kept him in Moscow, where his dishonest reporting misled an entire generation about the realities of Soviet communism.

AIM says that Duranty claimed that the Times went along with his decision to ignore negative news. According to AIM  “The Washington Inquirer on Nov. 17, 1987 reported that at a conference on the Ukraine starvation at the City University of New York, Dr. James E. Mace revealed a cabled report of an interview Duranty had in June 1931 with A.W. Kliefoth of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. It read: ‘Duranty pointed out that an agreement with the NEW YORK TIMES and the Soviet authorities,’ his official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet regime and not his own.'” Dr. Mace, staff director of the U.S. Commission on the Ukraine Famine, fund the document in the National Archives and offered it to The New York Times, which did not publish the information. Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger told Reed Irvine and AIM president Murray Baron in 1988 that he had reviewed Times archives and “there is nothing in our files to indicate anything like that…”

But Duranty didn’t always cover up the deadly facts – he told British Embassy officials in Moscow an entirely different story, according to Taylor.

“As a British citizen, Duranty kept in close contact with his country’s embassy in Moscow. After his trips he talked with diplomats there, and he relayed information starkly different from what he had reported for the Times. Academic researchers have known these reports for some time.” But Taylor revealed them to the public, and the material damns Duranty.

“The Ukraine has been bled white,” he told the embassy. He thought it “quite possible that as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.” The entire farm system seemed in collapse. In one conversation he told British diplomat William Strang why he didn’t think starving peasants all that important. “There are millions of people in Russia,” he said, “whom it is fairly safe to leave in want. But the industrial proletariat, about 10 percent of the population, must be at all costs fed if the revolution is to be safeguarded.”

Duranty’s major lie involved Stalin’s Five Year Plan of 1931, which decreed seizure of private farms and their collectivization under state ownership. Stalin’s hidden purpose was to destroy nationalism among the Ukrainians, the largest non-Russian ethnic group in the USSR, fearing they were dangerous to communism. To Duranty, Soviet economic “reform” and “Stalinism” (a word he claims to have coined) were synonymous. Under “Stalinism” the Soviets enjoyed “joint effort, communal effort; and communal life is as acceptable to them as it is repugnant to a Westerner,” he told Times readers — a claim as false in the 1930s as it is today. As Taylor writes, Duranty chose to “portray Stalin for his Western readers as a wise and “perceptive leader capable of great powers of under- standing, ‘a quiet, unobtrusive man…who saw much but said little…[who] began to train and discipline and give self-respect to a nation of liberated slaves….”

The New York Times has never sought to return the Pulitzer Prize awarded to this dishonest reporter whose lies helped promote the advancement of Soviet communism which over the years would kill tens of millions more.

On  Sunday,  February 24, 1957, the Times published an interview between Times reporter Herbert Matthews and Cuban rebel Fidel Castro on page 1 of the newspaper.

Castro, Matthews wrote, “…. has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the Constitution, to hold elections … The 26th of July Movement talks of nationalism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism. I asked Senor Castro about that. He answered, “You can be sure we have no animosity toward the United States and the American people… “Above all,” he said, “we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship,” said the future dictator.

Matthews and The Times helped Castro deceive the world concerning his program for Cuba. He told them that he was out to restore constitutional government and democracy to Cuba, and they passed it on. They ignored the evidence that Castro was a Marxist and a participant in the violent communist-led riots in Bogota, Columbia in 1948.

Six days after Castro overthrew Batista, with considerable American help, his regime was recognized by our government. Herbert Matthews promptly wrote an editorial for The New York Times praising the action. It said that the Castro regime had “pledged itself to honor all international obligations, to hold now elections within a maximum of two years, and to protect foreign property and investments.” It added. “Finally refuting allegations of Communist infiltration, it proposes to shun diplomatic relations with Communist countries.”

Matthews’ sympathies for communists should have been more than obvious to his editors at the Times. While covering the Spanish Civil war in the 1930s, he allied himself with the Soviet dominated Republican forces, and earned a reputation as their stalwart supporter even in the face of their atrocities which included the murder of many of their own people.

Years after the war, Matthews wrote that an incident that had been widely reported had never occurred. It concerned a Franco commander under siege who got a phone call from the the communist commanding the forces arrayed against him. The commander was told that his son had been captured and would be executed if the he did not surrender. He then put the young man on the phone to prove he was in the enemy’s custody.

The commander told his son to be brave, to pray and to face death bravely. Moments later, the man was killed while his father listened to the gunshots over the phone.

Mathews denied that this touching incident had ever occurred. He was forced to backtrack when the father’s family got another Times’ correspondent to refute Matthews.

“I know it was true,” the late Frank Kluckhohn, the other Times reporter and my friend and colleague, told me at the time. “I was there, standing beside the father. Matthews lied.”

The “newspaper of record.” Some record.

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