Man Without Qualities

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Some Substantiated Charges

Although many of the charges against Senator Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth are supported by testimony of witnesses present at the scene, the New York Times insists on referring to the Swiftee charges as "unsubstantiated." Does the Times just have very high standards? After all, there are lots of claims out there about lots of things and supported by varying amounts of evidence. The Times, like every media outlet, has to have its own standards as to what constitutes an "unsubstantiated" claim.

Given how persnickety the Times has been about the Swiftee claims, isn't it passing strange that the Times has not even used the word "unsubstantiated" in almost any article it has run recently except to describe the Swiftee claims. Nor has the Times recently referred to any other claim by any other person anywhere in the world about any other topic as "unsubstantiated." The few Times articles that have even used the word "unsubstantiated" do not use it to describe an "unsubstantiated" claim, as in this Times article that appears towards the end of the search list regarding Vermont and drugs.

And then there is the curiously asymmetrical treatment the Times gives to the Swiftee charges compared to the treatment of similar Democratic charges against Mr. Bush. For example, in a single Times article we find these two passages:

The anger over [John Kerry's] antiwar period remains on fire to this day, consuming a group of veterans who have lobbed unsubstantiated charges that he did not earn his medals and are questioning his fitness to be president. ....

It was ... when Mr. Bush left his Texas Air National Guard unit to transfer to Alabama, that has led Democrats to question how and where he performed his prescribed military service ... Mr. Bush has consistently said he never requested special treatment, though Ben Barnes, who was speaker of the Texas House in 1968, said in 1999 that he had been asked by a Houston businessman - not by the Bush family - to recommend Mr. Bush for a pilot's slot, and that he had done so.

The Times is far too modest. Not only has Mr. Bush consistently said he never requested special treatment, the only "evidence" adduced by the Times to the contrary is the bald statement by Ben Barnes, a highly active Democrat and Bush opponent, that he was asked by "a Houston businessman - not by the Bush family - to recommend Mr. Bush for a pilot's slot, and that he had done so." Why is Mr. Barnes' statement enough to allow the Times to omit the word "unsubstantiated" from its description of the Democratic charges - but the testimony of the many Swiftees is not enough for the Times to drop the word when describing their charges? The Times reports that Mr. Barnes, a highly interested, partisan and obviously biased "witness," first made his claim against Mr. Bush in 1999 - long after the fact. Why cannot Mr. Barnes even come up with a copy of his letter of recommendation for Mr. Bush or any other written documentation or even the name of the person to whom he made the recommendation? - surely the Speaker of the Texas House keeps records of such things. And even if Mr. Barnes' claim were correct, the Times presents no evidence that Mr. Barnes' "recommendation" had any effect - not even Mr. Barnes says that he knows that his recommendation made any difference.

In short, why does it take so little for the Times to "substantiate" a charge against Mr. Bush but so much to "substantiate" a charge against Senator Kerry?

I charge bias against the Times. And I submit that my charge is well substantiated by the text of the Times itself - essentially a confession in the Gray Lady's own hand.

Instapundit has more on the curiously asymmetrical Times.

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