Pope "Unwittingly Hawks" Mel Gibson Movie? - January 19, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for January 19, 2004

Pope "Unwittingly Hawks" Mel Gibson Movie?

The latest attack by editor Frank Rich on Mel Gibson's movie of Christ spins a conspiracy theory about the Pope: "The ailing pontiff has been recruited, however unwittingly, to help hawk 'The Passion of the Christ,' as Mel Gibson's film about Jesus's final 12 hours is now titled," Rich writes in his Sunday column. Later he adds: "You've got to give Mel Gibson's minions credit for getting the pope, or at least the aide who these days most frequently speaks in his name, to endorse their film in the weeks before it opens in 2,000-plus theaters."

Rich continues his previous criticism of Gibson's movie as anti-Jewish: "Since I am one of the many curious Jews who have not been invited to press screenings of 'The Passion,' I have no first-hand way of knowing whether the film is benign or toxic and so instead must rely on eyewitnesses."

But that lack of knowledge didn't stop Rich in August from accusing Gibson and his movie of Jew-baiting: "The real question here is why Mr. Gibson and his minions would go out of their way to bait Jews and sow religious conflict, especially at this fragile historical moment." That before Rich had even seen a script.

Rich also said in August: "It's hard to imagine the movie being anything other than a flop in America." Since Gibson's movie opens in over 2,000 theatres on Ash Wednesday (February 25), Rich risks adding another to his line of dubious predictions.

For the rest of Frank Rich on "The Passion," click here.

" Anti-Semitism | Catholicism | Mel Gibson | Movies | "The Passion" | Pope | Religion | Frank Rich

No Recess From Anti-Judge Pickering Slurs

Saturday's editorial page denounces Bush for his recess appointment of Judge Charles Pickering, a victim of an unprecedented Democratic filibuster. While admitting such a move is a "perfectly legal" one that's been done by other presidents, the editorial repeats racially charged liberal criticisms: "Mr. Pickering took up the case of a man convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple, urging prosecutors to drop a central charge and calling a prosecutor directly."

Byron York unpacked the convoluted cross-burning case for National Review last January and found the truth a tad more complicated than the Times' whispers of racism: "Pickering questioned whether it made sense that the most-guilty defendant got off with a misdemeanor and no jail time, while a less-guilty defendant would be sentenced to seven and a half years in prison."

The Times editorial concludes by seemingly contradicting itself on the propriety of recess appointments, concluding: "As Senator Charles Schumer said, Mr. Bush's decision to bypass the Senate in this manner is 'a finger in the eye' for all those seeking fairness in the nomination process." Yet the Times ran no editorial after Bill Clinton's recess appointment of Roger Gregory on December 27, 2000.

UPDATE: As Tuesday's Opinion Journal notes, the Times did run an editorial after Gregory's appointment, on January 2, 2001-praising President Bill Clinton's end-run around Congress!

Wrote the Times: "By appointing Roger Gregory to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit while Congress is in recess, President Clinton rightly moved to address two related problems-the shameful failure to integrate that appeals court and the refusal by Congress to consider judicial nominees with reasonable dispatch."

For the rest of the Times editorial on Judge Pickering, click here.

" Editorial | Judge Charles Pickering | Racism

Stop the Presses: Times NOT Too Tough on Dean

In his biweekly Sunday column, Public Editor Daniel Okrent concludes (after some hemming-and-hawing) that the Times has not been too tough on Democrat Howard Dean. Heck, Times Watch could have told you that!

Okrent was acting in response to a torrent of emails from hostile Dean supporters: "Nearly every time there's a story about Dean in the paper, my in-box fills with complaints from his fans. (Every time there isn't a story providing a pr"cis of a new policy statement from the Dean camp, it's almost the same.)"

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz talked to Okrent about general reader reaction: "Okrent says he gets hundreds of letters and calls a day, and that on Sundays, when his column appears, he has 50 emails in his in box by 7 a.m."

Okrent has been a good sport about answering that volume of reader email and phone calls (including an email from Times Watch). Perversely, that could spell a problem-if it's true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, it's possible Okrent is getting a skewed perspective from Democratic partisans devoted to candidates in heated races in Iowa and New Hampshire-and who probably make up a disproportionate share of Times readers in the first place. Republicans currently have no similarly engaged political base refereeing Times writers for anti-conservative fouls.

In the opinion of Times Watch, the Times' coverage of Dean has been adequate (except when they insist he's a "fiscal conservative.") Times Watch just hopes Okrent is taking into account non-liberal complaints as well. For Okrent's latest column on the paper's Dean coverage, click here.

" Howard Dean | Democrats | Daniel Okrent

The Absent-Minded Italian Professor

"In Protest, Professor Cancels Visit To the U.S.," Karen Arenson's Saturday Metro section story, makes much of a grandstanding professor from Italy named Giorgio Agamben: "An Italian philosopher and political theorist who was scheduled to teach at New York University this semester has decided not to do so, as a protest against the new American policy of fingerprinting arriving visitors and employees from other countries."

Arenson quotes an article the professor wrote for the French newspaper Le Monde in which he states: "I have no intention of submitting myself to such procedures.''

But Newsday notes a significant fact Arenson neglects. You see, despite the professor's grandstanding, he would not have to "submit himself to such procedures" in the first place: "Italy is one of 27 countries that have been exempted from the United States' new policy of photographing and taking fingerprints of arriving foreigners."

For the rest of Arenson on the Italian professor, click here.

" Karen Arenson | Fingerprinting | Gaffes | Terrorism

Karl Rove, Evil Genius

White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's Monday story, "A Democratic Rallying Cry: Vote Bush Out of Rove's Office," tracks with Democratic campaign criticism of Bush adviser Karl Rove: "Elusive to reporters, infamous for browbeating Republican operatives (and members of Congress) who displease him, Mr. Rove is the man who told Republicans they should use the war on terrorism for partisan advantage."

This is what Rove actually said to the Republican National Committee in January 2002: "We can go to the country on this issue, because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America." Bumiller could have profiled Rove's influence on Bush without parroting Democratic spin.

" Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Karl Rove | Terrorism