Media Matters

Fixed Panel

CBS selects a veteran of the New York Times' post-Jayson Blair diversity defense.

By 9.23.04

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Blue-ribbon panels on journalistic fraud usually perpetuate it under the cloak of respectability, as they cling tenaciously to the lie that the dominant media are free of corrupting liberal bias.

CBS has decided under pressure that its viewers deserve to know whether or not their news readers are crooks. So it has cobbled together a two-man blue-ribbon panel, consisting of a tame Republican, Dick Thornburgh, and an establishment liberal, Louis D. Boccardi.

Boccardi is a veteran of the bias-denying panel the New York Times formed in the wake of the Jayson Blair debacle. That hoaxster was an obvious beneficiary of the New York Times's obsession with affirmative action. But the panel on which Boccardi served made sure to ignore the central role affirmative action played in abetting Blair's hucksterism. The panel produced the Siegal Report which gave New York Times editor Bill Keller the sham-authoritative cover to deny loudly that the black reporter's inexplicable rise at the paper stemmed from the paper's diversity-at-all-costs program. Having promised never to fake out readers, Keller's first act as editor was to fake them out, saying that the Siegal Report showed the "fraud Jayson Blair committed on us and our readers was not a consequence of our diversity program."

This was false reporting, as even Howell Raines knew. Raines admitted that his Alabama-bred white guilt blinded him to Blair's numerous acts of malpractice: "[You] have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

Just as the New York Times turned to establishment types like Boccardi to ignore its racial favoritism, so CBS turns to Boccardi to ignore its bias toward the Democratic Party. Get ready for the same obtuse conclusions -- that bureaucracy, not bias, explains the scandal, that "competitive pressures caused a lack of judgment," and so on. These panels are designed to overlook the obvious. Defining objectivity as liberalism itself, they never conclude that liberals lack objectivity, just that they made this or that "good-faith mistake," which would never have happened if a few more liberal ombudsmen were on the scene.

In Blair's case, the panel overlooked the obvious by playing dumb about the Times's willy-nilly promotion of incompetent minority reporters, even though Times Metro editor Jonathan Landman had spelled out the scandal for anyone with a functioning intellect left in the newsroom by saying, "It was clear that Gerald [Boyd] felt pressure to promote Jayson and that he thought it was the right thing to do. The racial dimension of this issue and Gerald's obvious strong feelings made it especially sensitive; in that sense it is fair to say that I backed off a bit more than I would have if race had not been a factor…I think race was the decisive factor in his promotion."

The Siegal Report had to downplay this testimony, concluding with a ludicrous "Note on Affirmative Action" which contained a more outrageous claim than found in Jayson Blair's reporting: "The Times's recruitment occurs mainly within the context of the American culture, with all of the extraordinary freight that it has accumulated in the 400 years since Europeans first set foot on this continent and encountered the people who already lived here. Essentially that culture taught that white men were the only people qualified to carry out the serious business of the world."

Translation: Even if Jayson Blair was a product of the Times's standards-lowering affirmative action policies, it will continue them to right the wrongs of Western Civilization.

Boccardi wouldn't have lasted long on the New York Times panel if he had said, "Look, you have to decide whether you want to be a newspaper committed to excellence or an affirmative action jobs program." Similarly, CBS wouldn't have named him to its panel if he were planning to draw attention to the network's blinding biases.

The network is so snugly in the pocket of the Democrats that its producers moonlight as matchmakers for like-minded Democrats. But the donkey in the CBS newsroom will not be seen by its blue-ribbon panel no matter how much manure accumulates.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.