The Misdeeds of Times Star Columnist Maureen Dowd
New York Times star columnist Maureen Dowd just isn't one to let the facts get in the way of a good story—or an accurate quote for that matter. Her most recent misdeed, for which she has apologized (most likely in the face of tape recorded evidence against her) is misquoting Progressive Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray. A little background: de Blasio, the only candidate in the race who is talking about inequality (more severe in New York than just about anywhere else in the country) has lately overtaken longtime frontrunner Christine Quinn in the polls. (Anthony Weiner briefly led before self-imploding.) Quinn is an out lesbian, married to her partner, but that might be it in terms of her progressive credentials. She is seen as too cozy with big business and real estate.
But back to Dowd, who, it seems decided to stir up a little trouble. She quoted McCray, de Blasio’s wife, saying that she thinks Quinn is “not accessible … She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.” Understandably, took this as implying that she, a childless lesbian doesn’t understand issues “like taking care of children,” in other words a swipe at her sexual orientation.
But McCray did not say that. Dowd compressed what she said to such an extent that it really altered the meaning. What McCray did say, responding to a question of why women may not supporting Quinn in droves is:
“Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about, and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace; she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she’s not accessible, she’s not the kind of person that, I feel, that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things. And I suspect that other women feel the same thing I’m feeling.”
Pretty different. Although it should be said, Quinn was still mad.
Dowd's accuracy has been shaky, and she can be pretty offensive, like when she wrote recently:
"When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet.
Comparatively speaking, the pol from Queens probably seems like a prince."
But here, as reported by NY Mag's Daily Intelligencer writer Dan Amira, are some other less than proud Dowd moments:
May 13, 2003:
Following a successful terror attack in Saudi Arabia, Dowd writes, "Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent." Her evidence?
''Al Qaeda is on the run,'' President Bush said last week. ''That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated ... They're not a problem anymore.''
It turns out those ellipses were pretty important. Andrew Sullivan noted the important context Dowd left out of her truncated quote:
Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they’re not a problem anymore.
Obviously Bush was only referring to the dead or jailed Al Qaeda operatives when he said they weren't "a problem anymore," not Al Qaeda as a whole. Nevertheless, the sentiment of Dowd's misquote was repeated throughout television and print. Two weeks later, Dowd included the full quote in another column, but the only acknowledgment of any error on her part came via a Times spokesperson to the Daily News:
"It was Ms. Dowd's decision" to run Bush's comment in full, a Times spokeswoman said. "Her intention was not to distort the meaning of the quote. She had received a couple of complaints and was happy to put in the entire quote to satisfy readers who felt it was too truncated.
March 18, 2004:
This time, Dowd's target was phony, pathetic John Kerry. She writes:
Even when he puts on that barn jacket over his expensive suit to look less lockjaw -- and says things like, ''Who among us doesn't like Nascar?'' -- he can come across like Mr. Collins, Elizabeth Bennet's pretentious cousin in ''Pride and Prejudice.''
The "who among us" quote became a pervasive knock on the patrician Kerry's sad inability to relate to the average Joe, and it stuck to him for the duration of the campaign. Even years later, people were still mocking Kerry for the line. Except that Kerry never said it. The actual quote:
"This president went to Florida just the other day to start the NASCAR races. There isn't one of us here who doesn't like NASCAR and who isn't a fan, but I'll tell you what. Instead of just saying 'Gentlemen start you engines,' and during that race listening and looking at a race while 350 manufacturing jobs were lost, $171 million was added to the deficit of our country ... "
According to a Slate story later in the campaign, Dowd learned about the quote "in a casual conversation with Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who said Kerry said it on Feb. 17 at a union rally in Milwaukee." Dowd apparently never bothered to confirm her colleague's month-old recollection before putting the quote in the column.