New York Times Squashed Story On Bush Debate Cheating Despite NASA Expert Evidence
(Thanks to Sharon for the tip)
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting reveals the New York Times killed a story just before the election which contained assertions from a NASA digital imaging expert that Bush cheated during the debates by using electronic assistance in violation of the debate ground rules. After the internet bloggers began running pictures of the bulges beneath Bush’s suitcoats during the debates, and questioning whether or not Bush was being coached or provided answers, the White House in typical Rovian fashion bullied mainstream media coverage of this by labeling such theories as coming from "conspiracy buffs."
FAIR has now confirmed that not only did a NASA scientist analyze the pictures and conclude that in fact Bush was wearing an electronic cueing device hooked up to an invisible earpiece, but that the New York Times declined to run the story after it was prepared. Dr. Robert Nelson sent his evidence free of charge to several news outlets three weeks before the election, first to the Los Angeles Times, and then to two smaller papers, all of who never did anything with the story. Nelson then contacted the NYT, where several reporters worked on the story and got it edited and readied for publication. However, Executive Editor Bill Keller apparently killed the story. After that, Nelson got Salon to run the story.
Nelson was subsequently contacted by Bob Woodward at the Post, who told him that he wanted to see what Nelson had and after getting the evidence, told Nelson that it would take a lot of work to get his bosses to go with it (Woodward it should be noted is already pretty high up himself.) Woodward never ran the story either.
Ben Bagdikian, retired dean of U.C. Berkeley's journalism school, held Woodward's current position at the Washington Post during the time of the Pentagon Papers. Informed of the fate of the bulge story and Nelson's photos at the three newspapers, he said:
I cannot imagine a paper I worked for turning down a story like this before an election. This was credible photographic evidence not about breaking the rules, but of a total lack of integrity on the part of the president, evidence that he'd cheated in the debate, and also of a lack of confidence in his ability on the part of his campaign. I'm shocked to hear top management decided not to run such a story.
Could the last-minute decision by the New York Times not to run the Nelson photos story, or the decision by the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times not even to pursue it, have affected the outcome of the recent presidential race? There is no question that if such a story had run in any one of those major venues, instead of just in two online publications, Bulgegate would have been a major issue in the waning days of the campaign.
Given that exit polls show many who voted for Bush around the country listed "moral values" as a big factor in their decision, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some would have changed their minds had evidence been presented in the nation’s biggest and most influential newspapers that Bush had been dishonest.
"Cheating on a debate should affect an election," says Bagdikian. "The decision not to let people know this story could affect the history of the United States."
Keep in mind that Keller’s paper had no problem running Judith Miller’s stories on Iraqi WMDs, and that Woodward’s paper had no problem running whatever the White House said to justify the war.