June 15, 2010

On Same Day, NYT Downplays Etheridge Incident, Runs Long Report on 3 Year-Old Alleged Meg Whitman Shove

times-774928If the folks at the New York Times had any sense of shame, they would feel foolish today.

A review of the Times’s June 15 print edition index and review of the related articles indicates that the paper’s editors:

  • Gave reporter Jeff Zeleny about 330 words on Page A21 to recycle a Caucus Blog post softly covering the video-recorded arguable assault North Carolina Congressman Bob Etheridge committed against a questioner on a public street “last week,” and which came to public light early Monday morning. The vague print edition headline (per the index): “Congressman Apologizes After Tussle.”
  • Devoted almost 1,000 words on Page A15 to a story about a three year-old alleged shoving incident involving California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman that “no one else appears to have witnessed.” Yet the headline gives the impression that the facts are not in dispute: “Settlement Was Paid in Whitman Shoving Incident.”

What explains the disparate treatment?

I suppose one could argue that the actions of a sitting congressman aren’t as important as those of someone who wants to be (but isn’t yet) chief executive of the nation’s most populous state.

Nice try, but I’m not sold.

Etheridge is a Democrat. It is still an open question as to whether the incident with which he was involved will become a criminal matter. There’s certainly no lack of evidence. All of this makes it a still-breaking and still-developing story worthy of far more attention than the Times gave it.

Whitman is a Republican. In addition to noting that the incident involved has no identified witnesses, The Times report specifically tells us that the matter was settled through mediation, and that “the authorities were not involved.” Former eBay CEO Whitman has no criminal exposure. The report is a gratuitous, politically-motivated dredge-up of a long-forgotten matter.

The Times’s Brad Stone and likely other reporters clearly put many hours of work into the Whitman report. In the process, he or they encouraged and ultimately convinced eBay employees to breach ethics and to violate confidentiality agreements..

The incident’s alleged victim still works at eBay and has clearly moved on:

In June 2007, an eBay employee claimed that Ms. Whitman became angry and forcefully pushed her in an executive conference room at eBay’s headquarters, according to multiple former eBay employees with knowledge of the incident. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was delicate and was deemed to be strictly confidential.

The employee, Young Mi Kim, was preparing Ms. Whitman for a news media interview that day. Ms. Kim, who was not injured in the incident, hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit, but the dispute was resolved under the supervision of a private mediator.

Two of the former employees said the company paid a six-figure financial settlement to Ms. Kim, which one of them characterized as “around $200,000.”

An agreement to keep the matter confidential was also part of the settlement, and the authorities were not involved.

Ms. Whitman was counseled in the matter, the former eBay employees said, by the company’s human resources lawyers and by Henry Gomez, then president of the Skype unit at eBay and now a senior adviser to Ms. Whitman’s campaign.

Ms. Kim still works at eBay and is now a senior manager for corporate and executive communications.

… When reached by telephone on Monday, Ms. Kim said the issue was a “private matter” and declined to comment. Later, in an e-mail message, Ms. Kim said she and Ms. Whitman had overcome their differences.

“Yes, we had an unfortunate incident, but we resolved it in a way that speaks well for her and for eBay,” Ms. Kim said. “And ultimately, I came back to the company, which is not something I had to do.”

The Whitman campaign issued a statement signed by Ms. Whitman that described Ms. Kim as a “respected colleague and valuable asset to the company.”

The Etheridge incident could yet result in criminal charges, and could affect the Congressman’s ability to continue in office. Absent criminal charges, it could at least subject him to some form of discipline from House leadership (well, let’s say it should, but given who’s in charge, whether anything negative will occur is highly doubtful).

By contrast, exactly how is the years-old alleged Whitman incident relevant to the California governor’s race?

The wildly different treatment of the two incidents — one drop-dead obvious, the other a “she said, she said” matter that has long since been resolved — reveals the Times’s primary motivation. It isn’t “journalism”; instead, it’s to discredit Republicans while protecting Democrats.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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