Gray Lady Gone Wild

, Cliff Kincaid, Leave a comment

In a bizarre college commencement speech on May 21, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. urged protection for his reporters and photographers “in war-torn Iraq” so they can bring back stories about a “misbegotten war” and help undermine the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. Strangely, he quoted Winston Churchill as saying, “never give in,” but Sulzberger urged the U.S. to raise the white flag in Iraq and suggested that George Bush be kicked out of office in the same way Richard Nixon was forced to resign. Sulzberger, who also serves as chairman of the Times company, defended the paper’s disclosure of national security information that makes it easier for the terrorists to target and kill Americans. And this from a publisher based in New York City, site of Ground Zero on 9/11.

While Sulzberger had no words of praise for the U.S. Armed Forces, he did express concern about losing “our reporters and photographers in war-torn areas such as Iraq…” He called Iraq “a misbegotten war in a foreign land.” So, apparently, he wants his personnel protected just so they can help undermine the war effort and force an American withdrawal.

The address, which sounded like something out of the mouth of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, comes at a time when major investors are questioning Sulzberger’s ability to lead the company into the new media age. Those investors made headlines when they withheld their votes for a slate of Sulzberger-approved directors at the April 18 annual meeting.

In the speech, delivered to the State University of New York at New Palz, where he was honored with a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Sulzberger argued that students should do the right thing when it comes to “small decisions,” such as picking up an overturned trash can or helping a stranded motorist. But he said, in effect, that on big matters such as peace, freedom and security for our nation, the U.S. should throw in the towel. He suggested abandoning the war on terrorism and concentrating on more important things like adopting special rights for homosexuals and illegal aliens.

Tooting his own horn, Sulzberger also declared that “…it’s important that those of us at The New York Times have the courage of our own convictions and defend the rights of our journalists to protect their sources or, after much debate and discussion, publish the news that our government is bypassing its own legal systems to tap into phone calls made to and from the United States.”

He was referring to the Judith Miller case, in which a Times reporter served 85 days in jail rather than testify before a grand jury about a possible crime, and the Times story about a classified NSA program to monitor al-Qaeda communications here and abroad. Miller, however, became a pariah at the paper for using Bush officials as sources, and she was forced to resign in a deal that left her with a financial severance package that Sulzberger still won’t explain in any detail.

Sulzberger quoted Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s Daily Show and went on to declare his belief in the “butterfly effect,” which “holds that the smallest of actions—say, the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in the mountains of Bolivia—can lead over time to enormous consequences—say, a hurricane in Africa.”

But doesn’t that apply to the Times? His head in the clouds, he doesn’t seem to realize that the immediate consequence of the Times disclosing classified information is that the terrorists have a much easier time of plotting to kill us. But Sulzberger, at least in his speech, exhibited no concern at all about what the terrorists might do.

The speech was much worse than the initial reports indicated. When I read on the blogs that Sulzberger had delivered a left-wing rant as a college commencement speech, I was skeptical. As someone who has had many exchanges with Sulzberger at Times annual meetings, where he tries to come across as reasonable and measured, I didn’t think he would have gone out on a limb like that.

After I called the communications office of the Times company for comment on what the blogs were saying about Sulzberger, I didn’t get my call returned.

I had no film of the speech or the transcript, only a local paper’s account of what he reportedly said.

Then, on May 27, C-SPAN came to the rescue with the actual film of Sulzberger’s speech.

Cliff Kincaid is the editor of the AIM report.