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NY Times: Public Editor’s Mea Culpa Doesn’t Cut It

John on October 23, 2006 at 9:02 am

I figure everyone has heard about this by now, but since I’ve written about this before and since I don’t think it can be written about too much, I’ll take a stab at it here. Byron Calame, the “public editor” for the NY Times has admitted over the weekend that the Times was in error to publish the SWIFT banking expose’. He writes:

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.

Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.

Calame also puts the lie to the idiotic argument that the program was public knowledge:

I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed.

His excuse for the error:

What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press — two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.

Translation: Bush Derangement Syndrome made me do it! This excuse is so lame, it’s begging to be questioned.


Click that link and read Michelle Malkin’s great follow-up question about this mea culpa. Can Calame point to anything said by any member of the administration that constitutes “vicious criticism?” It all looks pretty restrained given that, as Calame now admits, the Times had just done damage to a legal and successful anti-terror program.

Several bloggers are calling for Calame to resign. I don’t think this begins to address the problem. Late or not, Calame is the one individual at the Times taking responsibility for his error. The people who should resign are those who contributed to the Times original decision to publish. Forget Calame, Bill Keller is the one who should be resigning.

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Category: MSM & Bias |

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