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Media Analyses





Opinion as Fact: NYT Retorts to Criticism of Controversial UN Body


It is not new to say that The New York Times frequently injects opinion into what purports to be news articles. CAMERA has long highlighted partisan opinion and pejoratives that the newspaper's reporters have slipped into the news pages. (See, for example, here, here and here.)

But a story published in The Times yesterday nonetheless seems new and notable, in that the newspaper now appears to have given up even the pretense of objective news reporting. The article, written by the reporter Somini Sengupta, punctuates straightforward reporting of a recent speech by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley with Sengupta's own snark and sarcasm. The ambassador’s comments were thus heavily filtered through the reporter’s negative opinion of them.

From the start of the article, it was apparent that Haley's comments were not merely to be reported, but also discredited. The very first sentence stated that the ambassador "dismissed the United Nations Human Rights Council as 'so corrupt' without offering evidence."

It is not clear whether it's a desire to weigh in on domestic politics, disdain for Israel, or something else that prompted the newspaper to make a point of announcing that no evidence was given. What is clear is that this isn't standard practice at the newspaper.
 
When Times reporters once reported that Mahmoud Abbas had accused Israel of committing crimes "against unarmed Palestinians," for example, they said nothing about lack of evidence by the Palestinian leader. And when they quoted a Hamas official saying late Israeli leader Shimon Peres ''is a murderer and not a man of peace,'' they again didn't bother to highlight any lack of substantiation.
 
A few days ago, a report about critics of Russian policy in Ukraine, one of whom was gunned down, reported that "Russian authorities accused them of corruption and said they had left to avoid prosecution." So even Russian allegations about alleged corruption by their enemies passes without question in The New York Times. But not an American critique of the Human Rights Council.

At any rate, Haley is hardly the first to slam Human Rights Council malfeasance. The UN body is dominated by some of the world's worst human rights offenders, including Saudi Arabia, Venzuela, China, Cuba, Iraq, Qatar. And far from promoting human rights and freedoms all over the world, it overlooks the worst offenses and offenders to obsessively single out Israel for condemnation.

Just last week, the U.S. State Department expressed its "unequivocal opposition" to the council’s standing agenda on Israel. Samantha Power, the Obama administration's UN ambassador, had likewise slammed the Human Rights Council's bias and argued that such misconduct "undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself." Even UN Secretaries General have criticized the Human Rights Council for its anti-Israel slant.  
 
So for a seasoned New York Times reporter to then suggest that Ms. Haley had "no evidence" to call the Council corrupt is disingenuous. And still, this reference to lack of evidence even appeared in the newspaper's headline, before it was eventually changed.
 
 
The New York Times interjections didn't stop there. When the reporter later in the piece detailed Haley's criticism of the UN, she again made a point of chiming in to cast doubt on the ambassador's credibility. After the article noted that Haley "criticized the Security Council for holding monthly meetings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it immediately followed with a parenthetical counterpoint: "The council also discusses Yemen every month and Syria three times a month."
 
The reporter's point seems to be that Haley is off-base in criticizing the Council's obsession with Israel. But, again, such criticism is hardly controversial.  
 
On non-Israel related matters, too, the reporter made sure to make rhetorical counterpoints that are generally absent from the newspaper's coverage of other causes and other U.S. ambassadors. For example:
[Haley] insisted that American taxpayers should get value for the money they contribute to the United Nations. She said nothing about whether the United States would help head off a potential humanitarian disaster from famine that the United Nations has warned is looming over 20 million people abroad…
And:
She briefly channeled her boss, President Trump, by describing the United Nations as "basically a club" that needed to be disrupted. Exactly how Ms. Haley proposes to disrupt the world body is not clear...
If this type of snarky skepticism and thinly veiled disapproval were standard in the New York Times, it would be one thing. It is not. The report, then, represented a further slide of the newspaper's news pages from straight news to opinion and advocacy.

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