Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Robert Samuelson Edition)
John McCain, Dishonorable and Dishonest, Pals Around with Terrorists

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times Is a Mendacious Coward

The New York Times death spiral watch continues. Todd Gitlin watches New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg prove once again that he has no business in journalism with a story headlined "Obama’s Personal Ties Are Subject of Program on Fox News Channel":

"Unsubstantiated": A Failure of Nerve at the Times: Jim Rutenberg has a piece in the morning NYT on the Hannity loonfest that graced Fox News Sunday night. It's good that the Times found Hannity's garbage pail newsworthy. But the piece bends over backwards to give Andy Martin, of whom I wrote Sunday night, the benefit of the doubt. He tells Rutenberg that the anti-Semitic sentiments were forged. By whom? With what motive? Why were these remarks reported in the Washington Times, and never retracted? Rutenberg writes that Martin's "accusation that Mr. Obama's work as a community organizer in Chicago was 'training for a radical overthrow of the government'" "unsubstantiated" rather than false? Is the claim that the moon is made of green cheese "unsubstantiated"?

For Rutenberg, it is still the case that opinions on the shape of the earth differ.

We have a message for Jim Rutenberg: The game by which he goes nudge-nudge-wink-wink to his informed audience while pulling his punches so the rapid-read scan-the-paper commuters get the message the Republicans want is over. He should resign, donate all his money to the poor, and take up a life of anonymous service to others deep in the Amazon.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

And here is Rutenberg's story:

Obama’s Personal Ties Are Subject of Program on Fox News Channel: By JIM RUTENBERG: Fox News Channel ran a program Sunday that made provocative assertions... unsubstantiated accusations that Mr. Obama’s work as a community organizer in Chicago was “training for a radical overthrow of the government.”

The statement came from Andy Martin, a conservative writer and frequent political candidate who is credited as being among the first — if not the first — to assert in a chain e-mail message that Mr. Obama was secretly a Muslim. Mr. Obama is a Christian; his campaign says he “is not, was not and has never been” a Muslim....

Mr. Martin said Mr. Obama’s political career had been engineered by Bill Ayers, a founder and former member of the radical Weather Underground and now an education professor in Chicago. Various reports, including ones in The New York Times, have found no evidence that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers were particularly close, although they have had various points of contact. Mr. Ayers was host of an event for Mr. Obama early in his political career, they served together on a charitable board, and both worked on an educational project financed by the billionaire philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg....

Mr. Hannity’s program on Sunday was notable in presenting partisan accusations against Mr. Obama in a journalistic, documentary format.... Saying he believed that ties between Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers were deeper, and reporting that Mr. Ayers had been an admirer of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who, in turn, is an acolyte of Fidel Castro, Mr. Martin said, “If you love the Cuban revolution and Castro, and if you love what’s happening in Venezuela with Hugo Chávez, you’ll love Barry Obama — Barack Obama, as he calls himself — in the White House.”...

Mr. Martin said he was careful not to present his theories about Mr. Obama as proven fact....

Mr. Martin came under strong attack from liberals on Monday. Many noted that the Republican Party of Florida decided against backing his bid for the State Senate in 1996 after receiving documents from his Congressional race 10 years earlier in Connecticut listing the purpose of one of his political committees as “to exterminate Jew power in America and to impeach the judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City.”

Mr. Martin had previously said the documents were forged, and again denied their authenticity on Monday. He also denied harboring anti-Semitic sentiment, saying “it’s peripheral, it draws you away from the issue.”