Jewish World Review May 30, 2003 / 28 Iyar, 5763

Zev Chafets

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NYTimes has a bigger problem than Blair and Bragg — Dowd | In the town where I live, you can turn in a criminal by calling (800) 898-TIPS. The New York Times now offers a similar service to its readers. They can finger crooked stories by sending an e-mail to The Times at

Jayson Blair is the proximate cause of this humiliating hotline. But some of the TIPS coming into The Times aren't about Blair.

Nobody knows exactly who's under investigation. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg was suspended last week for letting an uncredited intern do his reporting. He's quitting.

And at least one other internal review is taking place. It concerns Pulitzer Prize columnist Maureen Dowd.

I'm not a certified Timesologist, but I can't say I'm shocked by what's happening at the Newspaper of Record. I've been expecting a blowup since August, when The Times ran a front-page story misrepresenting Henry Kissinger's views on war with Iraq. A newspaper willing to lie so boldly in pursuit of its editorial agenda is a newspaper out of control.

In fact, after the Kissinger incident, I stopped reading The Times' news section. But because I'm in the column-writing business, I continued looking at the editorial and op-ed pages. It was there, this month, that I came across an article by Dowd titled "Osama's Offspring."

Dowd famously dislikes President Bush. She often calls him names and says mean things about him. This time, she accused him of flimflamming the country. Two bombs had just gone off in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, presumably detonated by al-Qaeda. According to Dowd, this gave the lie to the president's assertion, delivered in a speech in Little Rock, Ark., that al-Qaeda was "spent."

Here's what she wrote:

"'Al-Qaeda is on the run,' President Bush said last week. 'That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated ... they're not a problem anymore.'"

Here's what Bush actually said:

"Al-Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. RIGHT NOW, ABOUT HALF OF ALL THE TOP AL-QAEDA OPERATIVES ARE EITHER JAILED OR DEAD. IN EITHER CASE, they're not a problem anymore."

The words in ALL CAPS were replaced in Dowd's column by three little dots. Those dots say to the reader: Trust me, I'm abbreviating here, but what I'm leaving out doesn't change the meaning.

But the dots did change the meaning. In fact, they turned it upside down.

Far from declaring al-Qaeda "spent," Bush was warning the country against complacency. The only terrorists the president declared "no longer a problem" were the ones already jailed or dead.

New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis says the paper is "looking into" the column. If Dowd intentionally misrepresented the president's words, she is guilty of a journalistic offense much worse than Bragg's intern problem, or even Blair's fantasies.

Blair is a kid, after all, who made things up for fun and profit. Dowd is a major figure at The Times, a role model. A syndicated role model.

Other journalists, including Andrew Sullivan and Greg Pierce of The Washington Times, have noted Dowd's dot trick. But as far as I know, I'm the first to turn her in to the TIPS hotline.

If The Times finds her guilty, it can send my reward money to the Home for Wayward Columnists.

And it should send Dowd there, too.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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