WEDNESDAY’S LETTERS: Press Demonization ‘All About Hypocrisy’, Safire Stands Up for Press Freedom

By: E&P Staff

In today’s letters readers continue to respond to the aftermath of the controversy over a bank records story involving the Bush Administration, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Another reader praises William Safire for staying true to his long history of defending press freedom.


Press Demonization ‘All About Hypocrisy’

“If a Democrat happens to get elected in 2008, and carries out controversial policies anathema to the right, will these same critics still be demanding that the media back off?”

No, not the same critics — they’ll promptly switch allegiances and rhetoric. The right will become all bluster about the American people’s right to know. You know that as well as I do.

What you don’t know so well is the corollary to this truth; which is that you and your side of the political equation will also just as promptly switch allegiances and rhetoric. The anti-Republican, anti-conservative elements of the mainstream press will become the first to a.) suppress and b.) condemn publication of stories such as those appearing in the NYT and Washington Post, once the administration in the crosshairs happens to be a Democratic one rather than a Republican one.

Such stories will appear in the Washington Times and the New York Post under the bylines of crusading (but right-wing) reporters, and they will be most emphatically deplored by the Bill Kellers and the Joe Strupps of this world, with no sense of irony and no blush of shame.

It’s all about hypocrisy, and it makes my head hurt.

Deb Weiss

One thing unremarked upon about that outrageous editorial is the editorial writer knows, or purports to know, exactly how the news department got the story. If in fact he knew, somebody news side has to have told him — a terrible violation of the so called wall between the departments. It might be worth your time looking into that.

F. Taylor

I hope somebody tries to find out whether Zannino, the DJ CEO, signed off on that asinine editorial. He is the first non-newsman to hold the job.

Fred Zimmerman


Safire’s Support for Constitution ‘Distinguishes’ Him

I was glad to see William Safire — not exactly a raging liberal — take an uncompromising public stand in favor of press freedom. However much I disagree with Safire’s politics, I admire him for remaining true to the Constitution, and the vision of the framers. That fidelity to the Constitution distinguishes him from the radical right-wingers who have taken over his political party, and the federal government, in recent years.

Safire’s clarity on these important issues stands in sharp contrast to the befuddlement of William Bennett, who seems to think that the Bill of Rights is a mere superfluity, something that can be dispensed with at the whim of either a self-aggrandizing president or an inflamed, intemperate public. What Bennett fails to understand is that rights, including the right of the citizenry to know what the government is doing (via a free press) and the rights of accused persons to due process under the law, are not susceptible to presidential fiat or to a popular vote.

Unfortunately, most Americans no longer receive an adequate education in what used to be called “civics,” so people often are swayed by the flawed demagogic arguments of the William Bennetts, Dick Cheneys, and George W. Bushes.

Anyone can wave the flag. True patriots, however, scorn shallow displays of jingoism and instead defend the values at the very core of American democracy — the basic freedoms we all enjoy under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Of those freedoms, the First Amendment guarantees are essential ([James] Madison called them “one of the great bulwarks of liberty”), because they prevent the government from infringing on our other precious freedoms.

J. G. Berinstein
Northridge, Calif.

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