NY Times Leaves Mao's Atrocities Out of Obituary for Physicist Turned Maoist Joan Hinton

The New York Times' obituary Saturday for Manhattan Project physicist turned Maoist Joan Hinton, by William Grimes, left out her Maoist beliefs in both the headline - "Joan Hinton, 88, Physicist Who Chose China Over Bomb" - and a text box: "A Manhattan Project member whose desire for peace led her to a Chinese farm." And the obituary itself completely omitted the deadly nature of Mao Zedong's totalitarian regime.

Joan Hinton, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atom bomb, but spent most of her life as a committed Maoist working on dairy farms in China, died on Tuesday in Beijing. She was 88.


In 1948, alarmed at the emerging cold war, she gave up physics and left the United States for China, then in the throes of a Communist revolution she wholeheartedly admired. "I did not want to spend my life figuring out how to kill people," she told National Public Radio in 2002. "I wanted to figure out how to let people have a better life, not a worse life."

Grimes concluded without any reference to Mao's atrocities during the Cultural Revolution:

She and her husband remained true believers in the Maoist cause.

"It would have been terrific if Mao had lived," Ms. Hinton told The Weekend Australian in 2008 during a trip to Japan. "Of course I was 100 percent behind everything that happened in the Cultural Revolution - it was a terrific experience."

By contrast, the Washington Post's obituary on Friday from Matt Schudel mentioned Hinton's Maoism in the online headline: "Joan Hinton, worked on Manhattan Project and became devoted Mao follower, dies at 88." A middle paragraph also made clear the murderous nature of the regime: "Nonetheless, Ms. Hinton remained an ardent supporter of Mao, the Chinese Communist leader who controlled the country from 1949 until he died in 1976. Even after Mao's Cultural Revolution reshaped Chinese society by force, leaving tens of millions of people dead in ideological purges, Ms. Hinton's loyalty was undiminished."

Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.