Patterico’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review 2009
The time has come to document another year’s worth of bias, omissions, and distortions at the L.A. Times — all gathered together in one handy post. As always, there’s something about seeing all this stuff in one place that really opens your eyes.
This year, L.A. Times editors whitewashed (and botched basic facts about) the ACORN scandal; protected their hero Barack Obama; sneered at tea parties; openly pushed health care reform; gave space to someone lauding killer Ted Kennedy’s “moral largeness”; hid evidence of the Fort Hood shooter’s Muslim ties and then flushed the evidence; made up a quote from John Cornyn and then flushed the evidence; hid conflicts of interest from multiple op-ed contributors; plagiarized Wikipedia; eliminated its local news section; had four rounds of layoffs; suffered from plummeting circulation; and committed numerous high-profile editing errors.
To name just some of their problems.
Oh: and they wrote numerous detailed corrections in response to my complaints. As they do every year.
Liberal bias? Check. Rank incompetence? Check.
Without further ado, here is my seventh annual review of the Los Angeles Times, otherwise known as the Los Angeles Dog Trainer.
WHITEWASHING THE ACORN SCANDAL
Above: James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles
In September, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles released eye-opening undercover videos showing ACORN workers at numerous offices helping the couple with a purported prostitution ring. This newspaper whitewashed the ACORN scandal right from the beginning, portraying it as a “conservative” complaint, utterly failing to mention the fact that Giles and O’Keefe told ACORN employees that they were pimping out young girls aged 13-15 smuggled in from El Salvador.
Then Peter Dreier wrote a fact-challenged op-ed claiming that Giles and O’Keefe had received assistance at only two ACORN offices. (The documented number was at least five at the time the op-ed appeared.) Dreier also incorrectly claimed that “not a single person who signed a phony name on a registration form ever actually voted” — although one person who did was later convicted only of false registration and not voter fraud.
It quickly emerged that Dreier has been a consultant for ACORN, and served on their advisory committee — a fact not disclosed in his op-ed. Dreier later claimed to me that his consulting work was unpaid — but he pointedly refused to answer questions about his work on the advisory committee, or why he failed to disclose his ties to ACORN.
I wrote a letter to editor Nick Goldberg complaining about the inaccuracies and omissions. The paper eventually issued an inadequate correction in response to my complaints.
[UPDATE: I don’t consider Goldberg to be part of any deliberate “whitewash.” I think he gave op-ed space to someone who is either dishonest or plain stupid — and then lacked the single pair of conservative editorial eyes necessary to catch the blatant misstatements in Dreier’s piece.]
But the funniest material came from hapless L.A. Times columnist James Rainey.
In September, Rainey wrote a column in which he uncritically quoted ACORN worker Lavelle Stewart suggesting that she had turned Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe out of her office. Rainey hadn’t bothered to contact Breitbart — or Giles or O’Keefe — to ask their side of the story. I predicted that Rainey would end up with egg on his face. When Breitbart started hinting that he had damning video, my prediction started looking better and better. And sure enough, the very person Rainey had uncritically quoted turned out to be the star of Giles and O’Keefe’s latest ACORN video:
Leading me to post this:
Breitbart appeared on Hannity and slammed Rainey for his slippery treatment of the scandal.
The best part: Rainey had criticized Fox News for uncritically accepting only one side of the story. There were so many levels to the irony, you needed an elevator to visit them all.
But it didn’t end there. Rainey then wrote an ass-covering column that minimized his error — and which included a purported quote from O’Keefe. After I investigated the source of the quote, it turned out to be largely fabricated.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the paper let stand another fabricated quote from O’Keefe, which was originally reported by the Washington Post, and reprinted by the L.A. Times. The Post corrected the error back in September. The Times still hasn’t.
SYCOPHANTIC COVERAGE OF OUR HERO BARACK OBAMA
The paper uncritically reported that opposition to Obama’s health care plan was fueled by angry mobs of right-wing extremists. Typical of editors’ attitude was this strawman from a front-page “news analysis” which claimed Obama “has seen the healthcare debate sidetracked by false warnings that government ‘death panels’ would be employed to snuff out Grandma.” Naturally, genuine concerns about rationing of health care were not discussed in this polemic.
The paper gave op-ed space to someone who implied that government can cover our health care — and it won’t cost us a dime! Because government money appears magically, out of nowhere!
When Obama held a town hall meeting on health care, he declared: “I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter.” This was an easily provable lie, and editors failed to tell readers about it.
The paper dutifully ran a picture of doctors in white coats — an image designed to lend credibility to Obama’s health care plan — and didn’t tell readers that the White House had passed out the coats beforehand to any doctor not already wearing one.
Editors forgot to mention Obama’s little costume trick
When a controversy arose about Truther and Obama appointee Van Jones, the paper dismissed it as “a firestorm that raged almost entirely on conservative talk shows and websites.” Well, sure: the print version of the paper did indeed ignore the controversy until Jones resigned — an indication that it was indeed a legitimate story that the paper had simply refused to cover. The same pattern held with NEA communications director Yosi Sergant: editors hid the controversy from their print readers right up until he resigned.
Official gusher Faye Fiore called the Obamas’ date night a “fascination and an inspiration.” She breathlessly declared the Obamas “impossibly elegant” — forgetting to mention that the evening was impossibly expensive.
Above: reporter Faye Fiore forgot to mention that you and I are footing the bill for the Obamas’ “impossible elegance”
Under Bush, unemployment was called “unemployment.” Under Obama, L.A. Times editors came up with a different name, which I am not making up: “funemployment.” iowahawk had a field day with that one.
Obama promised to “create or save” 600,000 jobs. It was a bogus formulation to begin with, but it became even more bogus when editors left out the “or saved” part of this weaselly phrase.
When Obama violated his pledge to make bills available for review for five days, editors overlooked it. But hey, the bill wasn’t that important — it was just a stimulus bill costing almost a trillion dollars. The paper groused that Republicans had failed to participate in the drafting of the bill to give it a bipartisan sheen — all because Republicans failed to treat things like an increased government role in health care as the “consensus item” that the editors falsely claimed it was.
Editors employed classic techniques of liberal bias in describing Republican criticism of Obama.
After Obama repeatedly described as “unprecedented” a business-as-usual plan to root out waste in government, L.A. Times stenographers described the plan as unprecedented!
Editors declared a string of broken Obama promises to be a sign of flexibility and pragmatism.
The paper wrote a slobbering article about Obama solving a diplomatic crisis — with one word!
The editors’ mental picture of Obama
Barack Obama: is there anything he can’t do??
Before Obama took office, editors wanted to portray the job situation as bleak. So they told readers that job losses were at their highest level since 1945 — but failed to mention that this figure represented absolute numbers, and misleadingly failed to reflect the explosion in the country’s population since then.
Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama did not teach constitutional law. Tell that to the editors of the L.A. Times, who had claimed otherwise numerous times.
On the positive side of the ledger, the paper reported it when the Obama administration warned a Democrat strategist to stay off Fox News.
PRO-DEMOCRAT BIAS IN GENERAL
As Hillary Clinton faced confirmation as Secretary of State, editors failed to document the extent of the questionable donations received by the Clinton Foundation.
The paper lauded killer Ted Kennedy as a “top warrior for health care reform.” You could almost hear reporter Bob Drogin sobbing as he wrote his melodramatic story about Kennedy’s funeral. We had to endure commentary talking about the “moral largeness” of a guy who left a woman to drown at Chappaquiddick, promptly informing authorities within a mere ten hours.
Above: the results of Ted Kennedy’s “moral largeness”
ANTI-REPUBLICAN BIAS AND ANTI-TEA PARTY SENTIMENT
The paper used loaded language such as saying Republicans would “snipe” at Obama as he swam “against the partisan tide” — as layoffs “add[ed] urgency to the need to agree on a stimulus plan.”
Stimulus plan good . . . tea parties bad. And inconsequential. When KFI’s John and Ken hosted a taxpayer revolt that drew 8000-15,000 people, the paper refused to cover it, for transparently phony reasons. Editor David Lauter responded to hundreds of angry readers in one e-mail — and failed to use a “bcc” line, meaning he shared each angry reader’s e-mail address with all the others. If you’re thinking: “What a moron!” then you have plenty of company.
They did, however, find space to cover one tea party . . . a toddler tea party given by Katie Holmes and Angelina Jolie. The paper later did a fact-challenged hit piece on John and Ken.
When they did cover tea parties, they portrayed them as a uniquely Republican phenomenon that carried risks for Republicans — ignoring the fact that tea-party attendees are also largely fed up with the Republican party.
The L.A. Times thinks these people are all Republicans
Editors, displaying their typical balance, described outgoing President Bush as “unrepentant.” Well, hey, that’s the word I’ll use about the editors after their paper finally dies.
When the government produced a ridiculous report that appeared to declare conservative sentiments to be a worrisome phenomenon that should concern law enforcement, did the L.A. Times worry about the obvious chilling effect on political beliefs? No, it parroted the phantom concern about those damn violent right-wingers.
In the stimulus bill debate, the paper unfairly portrayed Republicans as “complainers.”
It was instructive to compare the unflattering portrayal of Republican opposition to the favorable portrayal of Democrat opposition to Bush in 2001.
The paper explained that George W. Bush never admitted error. Except, he did.
The paper recycled a hoary old fable about George H.W. Bush being surprised by supermarket scanners.
Every past Republican president in recent memory got slandered. With Reagan, the editors compared his resurgent popularity to that of Josef Stalin.
Jack Dunphy caught the paper putting an angry-looking picture of Michael Steele on the Web site’s front page.
The paper resurrected its oft-repeated canard that George W. Bush came to power through the strength of a Supreme Court ruling — rather than the way he actually did: by winning the 2000 election.
PRO-TAX AND SPENDING BIAS
Editors ran an article about the Horrible Impact of Spending Cuts and the Questionable Nature of Republican Claims — while burying or omitting any discussion of the horrible impact of tax increases and the questionable nature of Democrat claims.
The paper portrayed a ridiculous California budget deal as an attack on the elderly, the poor, and children.
The paper always details the horrors of spending cuts, but ignores the problems associated with tax increases.
The paper persisted in its usual tactic of describing a cut in projected wish list spending as a budget cut. This way, even keeping spending at the same level gets described as a “cut.”
Editors pretended that the rich were failing to pay their fair share of taxes — while burying the dire economic consequences of soaking the rich.
WAR ON TERROR
When Major Nidal Malik Hasan perpetrated a terrorist act of mass murder at Fort Hood, the L.A. Times‘s initial story had no mention of the shooter’s religion, his alleged rants against U.S. involvement in Iraq, his alleged approval of suicide bombings, or the allegations that he was shouting something in Arabic as he shot. But the paper did make sure to include irrelevant statistics concerning suicides at Army bases due to deployments to the war. After Instapundit linked my post and the story became an obvious embarrassment to the paper, editors did what they generally do with embarrassing stories: they flushed it down the memory hole.
Nidal Malik Hasan
Where the original Hasan story went
(Credit: Freedom Now! blog)
Reporter Carol Williams wrote an utterly irresponsible article that badly mischaracterized the holding of a significant court decision about the war on terror. As I explained in an e-mail to Williams and her editor, Williams had reported assumptions about John Ashcroft’s policies as if they were fact, and falsely implied that all three judges on the panel had criticized Ashcroft. The paper ended up issuing a remarkably lengthy and detailed correction that noted the errors I had pointed out.
Editors engaged in a highly misleading campaign against the use of the Patriot Act to prosecute unruly airline passengers. The paper significantly minimized the behavior of two people accused of disrupting flights. It later turned out that one of the experts they quoted completely disagreed with the thesis of the article — not that they bothered to explain that to readers in the first instance.
An article about convicted terrorists portrayed them as impoverished dupes who were dragged through the coals in a years-long, multi-million dollar persecution.
Editors somehow managed to publish an entire article regarding whether waterboarding was effective without once mentioning its biggest reported success.
The paper is always happy to give op-ed space to a Hamas terrorist.
Editors acted as stenographers for Ahmadinejad after his dubious re-election.
Editors called this maniac “vigorous and assertive” while burying doubts about his election
However, from the “Credit where credit is due” department, we saw the paper tell the story of an Iranian martyr named Neda. Nice job, for once.
The paper wrote a story about a college student who was both an illegal immigrant and an affirmative action beneficiary. Shockingly, the tough questions were studiously avoided.
Editors took on an ICE policy of deporting illegal aliens with whom they came into contact — distorting the policy to falsely suggest that ICE was targeting innocent illegals. Internal ICE memos discovered by a reader of mine proved that the paper had distorted ICE policy.
Just to make it clear which side of the immigration debate the L.A. Times is on, the paper told a sob story about a man being deported for the minor crime of trying to kill someone.
In 2005, the editors sanctimoniously announced that there was no reason to segregate state prisoners by race. I like to remind them of this every time there is a major race riot at a prison, and this year was no exception.
One thing that has always frustrated me is the way that the paper portrays good police work as racism. A great example can be found here, where editors complained about numerous examples of black men being stopped by police because other black men had committed crimes. Whose fault is that?
THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY
Editors claimed that Sen. John Cornyn said he “would probe deeply into Sotomayor’s past comments and rulings to see if her heritage colors her ability to make fair decisions.” This was a lie, as Cornyn said no such thing. Editors then sent the false claim down the memory hole.
Where the story with the fabricated quote went
(Credit: Freedom Now! blog)
When Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor got caught saying something very impolitic — that courts make policy — editors suggested that she was joking. But she wasn’t.
After being slandered by this paper all last year, Judge Alex Kozinski saw the proceedings against him concluded without a finding of misconduct. The paper chose instead to fixate on some footnote concerning a gag e-mail list Kozinski had a few years ago. When the Ninth Circuit finally dismissed the claims against Kozinski, the paper totally ignored it.
Just as the paper slammed Kozinski, it protected liberal federal judge Stephen Reinhardt, deciding not to tell readers when the Supreme Court declared that Reinhardt had dissembled in a death penalty appeal.
The paper’s coverage of the Roman Polanski case was an object lesson in the heights — and depths — of which the paper is capable of reaching. Starting with the depths: Patrick Goldstein suggested that the pedophile and child rapist should not be held accountable because it would cost too much money to sentence him. After a considerable backlash, Goldstein implausibly asserted that Hollywood doesn’t really support Polanski — a claim easily refuted with video of the standing ovation he received for winning the Oscar for “The Pianist.”
A front-page headline claimed that Polanski had merely been “accused” of the sexual assault — when, in fact, he had pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor.
On the positive side, Steve Lopez wrote an excellent column that publicized the victim’s grand jury testimony — testimony that I had been telling readers about for months. Reporter Joe Mozingo broke news about Polanski’s civil settlement with the victim, and wrote a lengthy and seemingly accurate article that dispelled many of the myths that were floating around about the case.
This time Steve Lopez did his research
The paper told readers about a decree from federal judges that 43,000 prisoners be released from state prisons. But editors neglected to mention that the judges were all appointed by Democrats.
The paper reported on a 19-year-old rape/murder being solved by a hit from a DNA database — but neglected to mention that editors had crusaded against exactly these kinds of databases.
They’re such sniveling cowards at this paper, they won’t say someone committed a crime — even after they’re convicted by a jury. But then, these were co-conspirators working with Anthony Pellicano — and we know that the paper has always been partial to him, even at the expense of its own reporter, Anita Busch.
The paper trumpeted the ACLU’s crusade to empty Los Angeles area jails — but failed to remind readers that this would undoubtedly result in more innocent people dying.
The paper swallowed whole a ridiculous liberal claim about the cost of the death penalty. (Editors have a history of making similar claims themselves.)
As is its habit, the paper trumpeted the bona fides of an alleged anti-gang worker who is really a criminal. This time, it was Alex Sanchez.
ANTI-POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT ATTITUDES
Editor Paul Thornton allowed himself to get misled by Radley Balko and Brian Doherty, and thus criticized Jack Dunphy for things he never said.
The paper consistently reports on the number of officer-involved shootings, implying that they are the fault of law enforcement — even when they clearly aren’t.
On a positive note, the paper gave a nice write-up to our friend, DDA Debbie Knaan.
OP-ED AND COLUMNISTS
The paper failed to disclose a significant conflict of interest on the part of self-styled police critic Merrick Bobb. I sent an e-mail to editor Sue Horton about it. Editors decided to do nothing.
Editors have this habit of soliciting comments from my guest poster Jack Dunphy and then refusing to publish them because he uses a pseudonym. They did it again this year, and I think it’s pretty rude.
Above: Michael Hiltzik
Sock puppeteer Michael Hiltzik got his “business” column back last year. This year, the column continued to be mostly leftist political claptrap as opposed to “business.” I called this repeat phenomenon “giving readers the business.” (Apologies to Wally Cleaver.)
In a typically fatuous column about the state budget, our friend Nofanofcablecos became Nofanofaccuratestatistics — claiming that the California population had increased by 30% over 10 years. He only overstated it by 100%. Close enough for L.A. Times work? Surprisingly, no. I complained, and the paper issued a correction. The correction was incorrect and misleading — i.e. par for the course.
Hiltzik is such a crazy leftist, he actually suggests that the government should prevent banks from repaying TARP money, so that the government can retain control over the banks.
Hiltzik also claimed to be in favor of competition for health care — yet at the same time, he favors a single-payer system. Huh?
Above: the hapless James Rainey
We already roundly mocked James Rainey above for his dishonest and ridiculous coverage of the ACORN scandal. But I’m not done with him yet.
Rainey railed against Fox News — yet was mostly silent about MSNBC and totally gave a pass to CNN.
Rainey slammed my friend Jill Stewart — without revealing his ulterior reasons for doing so, or contacting anyone with a contrary viewpoint. In doing so, he appeared to violate his paper’s policy on anonymous sources. Luke Y. Thompson responded here.
Rainey sanctimoniously proclaimed that there had been too much coverage of Miss California — in a column about Miss California. Complete with a picture of Miss California.
Matt Welch discussed the prospect of government bailouts of newspapers — which would turn watchdogs into lapdogs. Meanwhile, the paper pretended that the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine was a phony Republican bugaboo — even as a U.S. Senator called for hearings to explore the reinstatement of the doctrine. As Democrat sponsors continued to line up, I wondered: did columnist James Rainey plan to print a retraction?
Jack Dunphy recalled Tim Rutten’s complaint that officer concern over release of private information was “preposterous.” It seemed less preposterous after it actually happened. He’s such a shill, he even uncritically accepted the Obama administration’s “created or saved” nonsense.
How big a tool is Rutten? He actually believes that Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tim Rutten argued that the criticism of the president was violent and hysterical — but somehow forgot to note that there had been violent and hysterical criticism of Bush. I reminded him.
Yes, Mr. Rutten, President Bush got violent and hysterical protests too
Why were the paper’s columnists so awful? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that so many of them used their positions as columnists to obtain medical marijuana — under the pretext of writing about it (or doing stupid and pointless videos about it).
FINANCIAL WOES AND ENDLESS LAYOFFS
In a stunning move, the paper killed its California section — even as it raised the price of the paper. But the paper decided to keep it on Sundays — news that broke exclusively at my site. The paper claimed it was still covering local stories — yet somehow missed a story about a proposed $70 million increase in unfunded liabilities at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
A rumor went around that Rupert Murdoch was considering buying the paper.
After this web site accurately reported rumors of massive layoffs, the news of 70 more layoffs in January seemed like death in slow motion. After a while, news of further March layoffs became a dog bites man story. It happened again in October, and then again in December. Circulation continued to plummet, and I have begun to question whether the paper even makes a profit any more.
MISTAKES, WE MAKE MISTAKES
I guess they laid off a lot of editors, because one edition of the paper went out with all the headlines unwritten.
And then it happened again (albeit only online).
In a single day, the paper managed to confuse LAPD officers and LAPD Explorers (members of a youth program); confuse the concept of a “radius” with that of a circle’s area; and misstate the weight of water by over 50%. They soon corrected the error about Explorers and officers.
The paper told readers that Obama had “dawned” a pair of jeans (later identified as “mom jeans”) to incompetently toss out the first pitch at a baseball game.
The paper ran countless stories about Michael Jackson’s death — while lesser stories like the revolt in Iran or cap-and-trade legislation went virtually unnoticed.
The paper engaged in blatant plagiarism. Worse, the source that was plagiarized was the notoriously unreliable Wikipedia.
The paper ran an advertisement disguised as a front-page story. Funnyman Roy Rivenburg mocked editors.
The paper found room (apparently online) to write about penile fractures. Ouch.
In an exclusive interview with patterico.com, John Ziegler provided a critique of an L.A. Times article about talk radio.
I hope you enjoyed the post. If you’re interested, I have done six previous annual reviews of the newspaper. The previous annual reviews can be found at these links:
UPDATE: Thanks to John Hinderaker at Power Line for the link and the kind words.
UPDATE x2 1-1-10: The paper today corrected the fabricated O’Keefe quote that had been published in the Washington Post. They have yet to correct the fabricated O’Keefe quote appearing in James Rainey’s column. Details here.