More Made-Up Stuff in an L.A. Times Editorial
I just now cracked open the dead trees edition of yesterday’s L.A. Times. There is an editorial that I can’t find online titled “And as for the Seven Dwarfs . . .” [UPDATE: The link is here.] It opens:
Readers of this page may recall our cynicism at recent reports that SpongeBob SquarePants, who we thought was just a treacly cartoon sponge-person, actually has lurid designs on young children. Last month, James Dobson, Focus on the Family’s thoughtmeister, declared that SpongeBob’s penchant for holding hands with his male starfish pal and his soft and swishy, er, squishy demeanor signals that he is really a homosexual cartoon sponge. Bob, he suggested, is an unsuitable, if not alarming, role model for kids.
As far as I know, the language I have emphasized is utterly false. If there is a shred of evidence that Dobson made the declaration attributed to him in the editorial, I’ve yet to see it.
I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. In the only public statements of his on the subject that I am aware of, Dobson has explicitly denied accusing SpongeBob of being gay. A statement on his organization’s web site explains that Dobson objected to the video, not to SpongeBob. And Dobson addressed the issue in detail in a newsletter, accusing the media of distorting his remarks.
It’s not just Dobson or his supporters saying this. An editorial in Toon Zone, an online magazine about cartoons, savaged the New York Times for implying that Dobson had attacked SpongeBob directly:
Deliberately or not, [The New York Times] appears to have twisted Dobson’s position and imputed to him (without evidence) an argument he does not seem to have made.
Flawed as the New York Times article was, it still only implied that Dobson had accused SpongeBob of being gay. It never explicitly claims that Dobson made such a statement — unlike yesterday’s L.A. Times editorial, which directly attributes such statements to Dobson.
I blogged about this two weeks ago, criticizing Jeff Jarvis for placing his faith in the accuracy of factual assertions in L.A. Times editorials — especially about cultural issues. I am sending Jeff a note with a link to this post. I hope that, his dislike of Dobson aside, Jeff will join me in criticizing the Los Angeles Times for making assertions of fact without any evidence to back them up.
If the editors of the Los Angeles Times wish to mock Dobson’s criticism of a pro-gay video in which SpongeBob makes an appearance, they have every right to do so. But while they are entitled to their opinions, and even their (properly labeled and factually based) speculations, they are not entitled to their own facts. Unless they have some basis for saying it, they do not have the right to assert as fact that Dobson has “declared” that SpongeBob is gay.
I have written the Reader’s Representative to ask if the paper has evidence supporting the assertion in the editorial.
UPDATE 2-8-05: The paper plans to run a correction in response to my complaint.
Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the link, and welcome to Hugh’s readers. If you like what you see, please bookmark the main page and return often!
[…] e Gold writes me to say that the paper will be issuing a correction of its editorial which falsely claimed that James Dobson had called SpongeBob SquarePants gay. […]Patterico's Pontifications » L.A. Times Will Run Correction on Dobson Slander (0c6a63) — 2/9/2005 @ 1:07 am
Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:31 am
Responding to my recent complaint, the L.A. Times today runs the following correction: […]Patterico's Pontifications » L.A. Times Issues Correction on Dobson and SpongeBob (0c6a63) — 2/10/2005 @ 5:33 pm
is it time to replace the easily defeated straw man with the now PC sponge man?Brian (c5c6a3) — 2/6/2005 @ 12:11 pm
Nice job on shredding the LAT “Dobson says SpongeBob is gay” editorial. Please tell us what the Reader’s Rep tells you, and whether a correction ever appears.
I’m from Ohio, and this weekend I visited my brother, who still subscribes to the LAT even though he just moved from Redondo Beach to San Clemente, and his family. I told him he has at least a chance of getting the truth from the OC Register, and he sure won’t get it from the LAT.
Saturday he kidded me about whether I wanted to read LA’s shining example of journalism–of course I did, just to see how long it would take to catch a whopper. Answer: 10 seconds, long enough to read the first couple of paragraphs of the editorial noted above, and to throw the paper aside in disgust. I told my brother that a) even if true, it was a colossal waste of prime editorial space to make it the lead editorial, b) I was 95% sure that their assertion about Dobson was false, and c) the paper’s obsession with the SpongeBob-gay topic (and Christian-bashing in general) was a giveaway that their sense of journalistic priorities is way out of whack.
He’s not changing his mind about subscribing to LAT, and he says he gets his “balance” by having Rush in the background when he works. But I linked him to your post and to Dobson’s rebuttal, which will indeed capture his attention, if only for a moment. And while I was at it I told him that I could probably find something nearly as obvious every single day.
Tom BlumerTom Blumer (210b95) — 2/6/2005 @ 4:48 pm
Times Lite?L.A. Observed (ccf68e) — 2/8/2005 @ 9:51 am
Blogger Cheat Seeking Missiles didn’t like a recent Times editorial about James Dobson and SpongeBob SquarePants, so he called to cancel his 25-year subscription. In the pitch to get him to reconsider, he writes, the person on the phone offered to let…
Keep up the good work.
I am born and raised in LA. Over the last 30 years I have seen the LA Times crumble. As far as I remember, it always had a leftward bias. Conrad’s cartoons seemed to be the most graphic representation of this. But now, they are caught lying to further their agenda. Since when was “news” suppose to have an agenda?
I read Dr Dobson’s rebuttal to the MSM’s twisting of his words on SpongeBob. I like SpongeBob. My 2 year son carries around a SpongeBob blanket. I also like Dr Dobson and respect his words and teachings. I was concerned when I read the MSM’s accounts of the Dr’s comments. I am now far more concerned about the media’s distortions of his words.
It used to be that all you could do to complain about inaccurate coverage is write a letter and cancel your subscription (My parents and their friends cancelled theirs to the LA Times years ago. They take the Daily Breeze and I take the OC Register). Today, you can identify the lies and document a pattern.
CBS, CNN, the NY Times and LA Times are all now proven to have agendas and proven to use lies and distortions of the “news” to further these agendas. With the rapid maturation of the Blogosphere, they can no longer hide their practices.
The old practice of deny and lie don’t work anymore, because there is now an established, parallel news distribution network watching their every move. Easongate is proving that the MSM doesn’t know it exists and isn’t reading it if they do. This is democracy, baby! The Blog turns 1984 on its ear. The MSM is toast.Brad (dc9b98) — 2/8/2005 @ 10:48 am
I dropped my subscription to the LAT sister paper Hartford Courant years ago. Is this a Tribune problem or a local problem?
I never read the NYT. Never watch MSM TV. Still informed and much happier.Charles Michet (60fcff) — 2/8/2005 @ 11:00 am
Ironic that the media finds Dr. Dobson such a great target. You might say they find him ‘spongeworthy’.RightWingDuck (8c6359) — 2/8/2005 @ 2:54 pm
I dropped the LA Times over a Scheer op-ed last year and the girl who took the call laughed and said she was getting a lot of these calls. This past fall, after the dollar-a-week offer, I resubscribed. I’m going to drop it again. Football season is over (Go SC) and I can read the Sports section online. I just find the paper unreadable. I had dropped the NY Times as too biased but the LAT is much, much worse. I kept the NY Times Sunday edition and will stay with it plus the WSJ and OC Register.Mike K (3359a9) — 2/8/2005 @ 10:19 pm
More can be found here:David Huntwork (087e37) — 2/10/2005 @ 9:40 pm
The Saga of SpongeBob SquarePants