‘New York Times’: Slur-less


While news reports that Hillary Clinton was accused of once calling someone a “fucking Jew bastard” splashed onto New York City front pages and zipped around the planet last weekend, The New York Times covered it like a blanket—a wet blanket.

The searing report, which lands in the middle of the first lady’s attempt to woo the crucial Jewish vote in her Senate race against Republican Rick Lazio, broke in the first edition of Saturday morning’s New York Post, closely followed by an appearance in the second edition of Saturday’s New York Daily News. The stories focused on an allegation in a new book that, back in 1974, right after Bill Clinton lost a congressional race, Hillary unleashed her fury at campaign adviser Paul Fray, calling him a “fucking Jew bastard.”

Tell it to the Times, pal. Its first mention of the story was Monday morning, when reporter Adam Nagourney, who’s covering the Senate race, noted the rare occurrence of Hillary’s having called a press conference to deny making the comment and to denounce the reports. “In making such a public statement,” Nagourney wrote, “Mrs. Clinton risked drawing more attention to a report that so far has received relatively little coverage.”

True, unless you counted reports in newspapers in the United States, London, Paris, and Jerusalem, and a prominent spot on the Associated Press’s list of top worldwide stories.

Jesse Jackson landed in hot water in 1984 after The Washington Post broke a report that he had referred to Jews as “Hymies” and to New York City as “Hymietown.” The Times waddled into that story and even used the word “Hymie.” Not in this case. Nagourney’s Monday morning story characterized the alleged comment as “an anti-Semitic slur” but didn’t say what the slur was or give readers a hint of what may have been said.

Nagourney’s editor, Kate Phillips, told the Voice, “I’m not going to pick apart Adam’s story.” When asked how Nagourney could write that the story had received “relatively little coverage” even after it raced around the globe and was picked up by news organizations just about everywhere but in his newsroom, she said, “Well, you can put your observations about that in your story.” She declined further comment, referring questions to the Gray Lady’s public relations department, where a spokeswoman said, “At the time the article was written, there had been very little coverage.”

“It was a judgement call,” she said.

Nagourney obviously had bigger fish to fry. His Sunday morning story on the Senate race belabored the false point that nothing was happening in the Senate race. “A fog has descended over this once highest of high-flying campaigns,” he wrote.

Well, someone’s in a fog, anyway.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2000

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