The other day, a gunman walked into an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada, and opened fire with an AK-47 on helpless patrons who had been eating breakfast. He hit 12 of them, five who were members of the National Guard. Before he turned the gun on himself, the gunman had killed three patrons and wounded eight more.
This happened just one day after James Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters Union, told a Labor Day Rally in Detroit, “President Obama this is your army! ... Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong."
The shooting at the IHOP followed by just a few weeks this statement by Congresswoman Maxine Waters to supporters in California: “The Tea Party can go straight to hell.” The remark was greeted with cheers from the audience.
Perhaps you saw the editorial in the New York Times following the murder in Nevada. This is part of it:
“It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Democrats or union members. But it is legitimate to hold Democrats and particularly their most virulent supporters responsible for the shooting at the Nevada IHOP. Many on the left have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing conservatives. They have tried to persuade many Americans that Republicans, especially the more conservative Republicans, are not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.”
The Times – or any news organization – would have had to be grossly irresponsible and hopelessly ideological -- to tie the shootings in Nevada to anything James Hoffa or Maxine Waters said, especially since it turns out the gunman who killed himself was mentally unstable, according to people who knew him. Besides that, there is not a shred of evidence that he heard Hoffa’s angry rhetoric or the “go to hell” vitriol of Maxine Waters – or for that matter, even knew who they were.
That’s why the New York Times didn’t run the fake editorial you just read. But here’s the real editorial the New York Times ran just days after the mass shootings outside a Tucson, Arizona supermarket last January.
“It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people.”
Looks a lot like the phony editorial, doesn’t it? But the Arizona gunman – like the one in Nevada -- was also mentally unstable. And there’s no evidence that the Arizona shooter ever listened to those supposed right-wing hate mongers that are always in the cross-hairs of liberal commentators – just as there is no evidence that the gunman in Nevada ever listened to Hoffa or Waters. There’s no evidence, for that matter, that the Arizona gunman ever even heard of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin or Glen Beck – just as there’s no evidence the Nevada gunman ever heard of James Hoffa or Maxine Waters. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from telling its readers that it’s “legitimate” to link Republicans to the massacre.
If a conservative publication or TV network linked Hoffa and Waters to what happened at the Nevada IHOP, they would be seen as ideological buffoons, hacks not to be taken seriously. But, without a shred of evidence, the Times linked conservatives to the Arizona rampage.
Editorial writers, of course, are expected to have a point of view. But even those who write opinions must be fair in the way they come to their conclusions. Otherwise, they aren’t journalists so much as they are ideological warriors. That’s what Rush Limbaugh is on the right, but he doesn’t pretend to be a journalist. The editorial writers at the New York Times do.