Imagine the most hypocritical thing possible. Got it? Are you picturing something?
OK, I can top that.
This is a story about a newspaper columnist who piously denounces those who would simply repeat claims by political activists — and then turns around and does the same thing himself . . . in the same column.
Today L.A. Times columnist James Rainey has a little screed about the one-sided nature of Fox News. This is, to put it mildly, highly ironic, in light of Rainey’s past columns.
In a September 23 column, in language imbued with no small degree of sanctimony, Rainey wrote that Fox News was being one-sided in reporting the ACORN scandal:
Yet no legitimate news organization can claim editorial integrity if it merely regurgitates information from political activists without subjecting the material to serious scrutiny.
So what did Rainey do? He regurgitated information from the political activists at ACORN. Not only did he fail to subject the material to serious scrutiny, he didn’t even contact the other side.
In his judgmental screed against Andrew Breitbart, Hannah Giles, James O’Keefe, and Fox News, Rainey wrote:
[V]isits to other ACORN offices have gone almost entirely unmentioned. Lavelle Stewart, a fair-housing coordinator in the group’s Los Angeles office, told me this week that she tried to get the “prostitute,” who claimed she had been beaten by her pimp, to go to a women’s center.
“The fact she was not taking the help I offered her made me think something was not right,” Stewart said. “It raised a red flag.”
The suggestion, of course, is that ACORN’s Lavelle Stewart righteously refused to help O’Keefe and Giles with their child prostitution ring.
Did that really happen? Well, that’s what Lavelle Stewart says happened. But what did Andrew Breitbart say in response?
Surely James Rainey didn’t regurgitate the claims of Lavelle Stewart at the political activist organization ACORN . . . and fail to contact Breitbart?
Yes, as you have no doubt guessed by now, that’s exactly what he did. I spoke with Andrew Breitbart and asked him if Rainey contacted him before writing his column. Breitbart told me Rainey did not.
Of course, this is a pattern on Rainey’s part. In June, he wrote a column harshly critical of Jill Stewart and the L.A. Weekly, which quoted a host of Stewart critics. Did he quote Jill (a friend of mine)? In an e-mail Jill sent to several friends and colleagues, she said he had not:
I wanted to tell my colleagues and friends in journalism and blogging that James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times did not contact me for his take-down attempt column about me today, published during the very same a week in which news-side stories I assigned and edited blew the Times out of the water at the Los Angeles Press Club awards.
I think you have by now discerned the pattern: presenting one side is good enough, as long as it’s the side with which James Rainey agrees.
By the way, I should add that I didn’t contact only one side in this controversy. Five days ago, I wrote Rainey to ask:
I just recently stumbled across your September 23 column quoting ACORN worker Lavelle Stewart, who implied that she was onto O’Keefe and Giles and gave them no help.
1) Did you contact Breitbart, Giles, or O’Keefe before writing your column, to ask them about what Stewart said?
2) If, by chance, you turn out to have been wrong about ACORN in L.A. — if it turns out that ACORN in L.A. tried to help Giles and O’Keefe with their purported underage prostitution ring — will you write another column acknowledging that?
Rainey has not replied.
See, Mr. Rainey? That’s how you do it.