Times Public Editor Again Snipes at Times : From the Left

Clark Hoyt warns the Times against excessive faith in Bush's claims about Al Qaeda in Iraq.

New Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt certainly isn't raising doubts among the Times hierarchy about its cozy belief that its news coverage is fair to conservatives. Hoyt has sometimes sniped at the paper from the left but never from the right. Hoyt's latest Sunday piece does criticize the Times again from the left, this time for not being suspicious enough about Bush's pronouncements regarding the terrorist group Al Qaeda ("Seeing Al Qaeda Around Every Corner").

"As domestic support for the war in Iraq continues to melt away, President Bush and the United States military in Baghdad are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda.

Hoyt doesn't want Bush to win support by bringing up the terrorist group in speeches: "While a president running out of time and policy options may want to talk about a single enemy that Americans hate and fear in the hope of uniting the country behind him, journalists have the obligation to ask tough questions about the accuracy of his statements."

Hoyt complained: "Recent Times stories from Iraq have referred, with little or no attribution, and no supporting evidence - to 'militants linked with Al Qaeda,' 'Sunni extremists with links to Al Qaeda' and 'insurgents from Al Qaeda.' The Times has stated flatly, again without attribution or evidence, that Al Qaeda was responsible for the bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra last year, an event that the president has said started the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites."

Hoyt cynically emphasized domestic politics as a way of warning journalists to question Bush harder on Al Qaeda "For the president, an emphasis on Al Qaeda has political advantages at a time when powerful former allies, like Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana...are starting to back away from his war policy."

The Powerline Blog doesn't think Hoyt has done his homework:

"Hoyt's claim that al Qaeda in Iraq is 'an Iraqi group' is sensationally ignorant. It was founded by a Jordanian, Zarqawi, and is now headed by an Egyptian, al-Masri. While some members are presumably Iraqis, it consists mostly of the 'foreign fighters' mentioned by President Bush who sneak across the border from Syria or Jordan. And, in any event, al Qaeda in Iraq has pledged its loyalty to the umbrella organization. Just last week, Zawahiri released a long video tape which I commented on here. The video is one long apologia for Zawahiri's favorite protege, al Qaeda in Iraq. Zawahiri exhorts radical Muslims to go to Iraq to carry out suicide bombings, and many, as the military's numbers indicate, do so. So why, exactly, is 'al Qaeda in Iraq' irrelevant to 'al Qaeda'? Hoyt doesn't try to frame a coherent argument, and anyone who understands anything about radical Islam will find the claim preposterous. That the New York Times has become one of the nation's leading centers of know-nothingism is old news. There was a time, though, when the Public Editor at least worried about the paper's relentlessly left-wing bias. Under Clark Hoyt, that concern evidently has been supplanted by a suspicion that the Times may be too cozy with the Bush administration and the U.S. military."