September 23rd, 2007
01:30 PM ET
11 years ago

New York Times public editor slams his paper over ad

A ad about Petraeus in the New York Times has generated a great deal of controversy.

(CNN) - The New York Times' public editor Sunday became the latest public figure to slam the paper over a controversial ad by that criticized Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in Iraq.

Clark Hoyt, who analyzes the paper's coverage as the "readers' representative," wrote, "I think the ad violated The Times's own written standards, and the paper now says that the advertiser got a price break it was not entitled to."

The group, Hoyt wrote, paid $64,575, which is the paper's "standby" rate - meaning it cannot guarantee placement on a certain day. The group wanted it to run on Sept. 10, the day Petraeus testified to Congress about the state of affairs in Iraq, and it did, meaning MoveOn should have paid $142,083, he wrote.

In response, MoveOn announced that it was never told of the error, but that it will retroactively pay the higher rate - even though it believes the higher figure "is above the market rate paid by most" organizations.

The liberal advocacy group challenged former New York mayor and current Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani - who paid the same lower rate for his response ad - to follow its lead.

The Times said it had erred. Spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said the paper's earlier insistence that MoveOn had paid the standard rate was incorrect. "We do not, however, determine rates based on the political content of ads, and Times Company personnel did not review this ad until after the rate was accepted," she said. "Nonetheless, we made an error and were slow to respond when asked about it. We apologize."

MoveOn, in a statement, noted that "there is no evidence of any kind that the error in quoting of rates was in any way based on the content of the advertisement or the identity of its sponsor."

Hoyt, while taking his paper to task, did not suggest it was the result of partisanship. "The Times bends over backward to accommodate advocacy ads, including ads from groups with which the newspaper disagrees editorially," he wrote.

Hoyt based his assertion about an alleged violation of the paper's standards on an "an internal advertising acceptability manual" that he quoted as saying, "We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature."

But he noted that the executive who approved the ad "said that, while it was 'rough,' he regarded it as a comment on a public official's management of his office and therefore acceptable speech for The Times to print."

The full-page ad did not address Petraeus' personal life.

Titled "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" the ad called Petraeus "a military man constantly at war with the facts," and cited previous quotes of his, contrasting them against quotes from independent reports and news stories.

The ad became the focus of political partisanship as soon as it was published. During Petraeus' testimony, Republican lawmakers targeted the ad and pressed their Democratic counterparts to condemn it, in what analysts said was a political strategy to try to force Democrats to risk losing either the support of those who admire the highly decorated general or those who agree with MoveOn.

Last week, President Bush called the ad "disgusting."

Eli Pariser, executive director of Political Action Committee - which says it is one of the largest PAC's in the nation - responded, "What's disgusting is that the president has more interest in political attacks than developing an exit strategy to get our troops out of Iraq and end this awful war."

The Senate last week approved a resolution condemning the ad, 72-25. "This amendment gives our colleagues a chance to distance themselves from these despicable tactics, distance themselves from the notion that some group literally has them on a leash, like a puppet on a string," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Republicans filibustered a Democratic proposal that also condemned GOP attacks on former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts during his 2004 presidential campaign.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, pointed that out Sunday.

On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," she was asked about Bush's assertion that Democrats "are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like, or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."

"I thought it was pretty sorry when his campaign attacked Senator Kerry's record of service, and I thought it was pretty sorry when the Republicans attacked Senator Cleland," she said. "I don't condone attacks by anyone on the patriotism and service of our military. I am an admirer of General Petraeus... and I joined in voting for a resolution that condemned such attacks."

But, she said, some are trying to focus the nation's attention on the ad "in order to avoid having to deal with the tough questions about our policy in Iraq."

"This debate should be about the president's failed policies. The Republicans are very good at coming up with political strategies, but unfortunately, they don't seem to have a very adequate grasp of military or geopolitical strategies that will forward America's standing, position, values and interests in the world."

Filed under: • Political ads • President Bush
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. pl. at the UN for a while.

    Sounds very much like censorship in the garb of propriety to me.

    What is this? Your conception of patriotism cannot look like treason to me?

    September 23, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    This whole thing is a mess for the Clinton campaign. This is going to give the Republicans a major weakness to attack once the election gets closer.

    The bottom line is MoveOn.Org should not, under any circumstances, have run this ad BEFORE General Petraeus testified on our progress in Iraq. This is the fact that makes this act unforgiveable in every way. The attack was no doubt offensive in every way, but to run it before he even testifies is nothing more than political. This was done by a pro-Democrat group, it was done to hurt the current administration and every Republican candidate running for office, it undermines our attempts to bring security to Iraq civilians, and it puts the lives of our troops in more danger. In the end, all parties involved should be held accountable for their actions.

    Clinton should have distanced herself from it and she did not. Therefore, she has asked to have this hang over her head throughout the rest of the election cycle. NOT a smart move.

    September 23, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |


    September 23, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. D.K., Miami, FL

    I'm glad more people are speaking out about such an immature ad.

    'Haha, we made fun of his name! We are so smart and political!' Grow up, MoveOn, honestly. I expected more rational discussion, and less name-calling.

    September 23, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. Paul Conley, Palmetto Bay, FL

    The Republicans are masters of the smear campaign. Remember the "Swift Boat" ads and the smear of Max Cleland? The draft dodgers were able to smear war heroes and not a word was said.
    You don't get to be a 4 star general without learning politics and how to suck up to your boss and Bush is his boss. His report could have very easily justified leaving immediately but he skillfully slanted it to read exactly what his boss wanted.
    Stop whining, lose the "if you're not in my corner you are not a patriot" attitude and work on some real problems facing the U.S..

    September 23, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. trish, hickory, nc

    Freedom of speech is taking its last gasps as we enter into the final stages of the Bush presidency. Why in God's name have we been fighting this war and losing American lives if our basic principles for American democracy have been lost?

    September 23, 2007 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Dr. Lott, Houston, Texas

    Free Speach ring a bell??!??! It was our willingness to ignore the accuracy of opposing free speach that allowed us to go into an illigitmate war. We ignored that the Bush family has strong ties to the Bin Laden family.

    September 23, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. JB Boston MA

    Since when did calling someone a liar become something other than personal. . .

    The only response dems have here is "you did it to us first". Talk about childlike.

    I believe that the NYTIMES policy is a good one. They should have followed it. I do not believe that it is an assault on freedom of speech. If you think about it. . . $140,000 is not a ton of money. If a large group of individuals got together, they could be really mean and rude. How about a "Clinton is a lesbian" ad. For that reason, there has to be some sort of policy, that isn't subject to opinions. IE- no personal attacks.

    September 23, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Carmen, Miami FL

    Why is this news? Why do we care? ran an ad and various Democrats not connected to the ad spoke out against it because politics is now a screwed up game. Why do Republicans keep bringing it up? Do they not have anything else to motivate their campaigns?

    Why is so much time being wasted about a stupid ad? We have more important things to worry about, and Republicans need to focus on something else if they honestly think they have any chance, because at the rate they're going they're going to be handing Democrats the White House (and that's not exactly a complaint).

    If anything, Democrats should be hammering home the idea that Republicans are wasting time with this idiocy because they have nothing else to talk about, instead of playing into their game and passing useless, time-wasting resolutions condemning advertisements not paid for or associated with anyone in the congress.

    Obama had it right, this fervor over an ad is meaningless.

    September 23, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. JB Boston MA


    Reread your post and then think about it in terms of the Swift Boat ads.

    Was that still your thoughts on the Swift Boat ads?

    If so then, I respect your opinion, but disagree.

    September 23, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  11. Mac, Severn, Md

    The real importance of the ad is the reaction of the Democrat candidates for President. All of them declined to say anything negative about MoveOn.Org for placing the ad. MoveOn has claimed that they paid for, and own, the Democrat Party. The millions of Democrats in the USA have no party: the Democrat Party is dictated to by a few people who RUN MoveOn.Org. The Democrat candidates truly appear to be afraid to offend the few who run MoveOn, for fear that they will rally their web base (2-3 million people) against the candidate. The average Democrat is really being left out.

    September 23, 2007 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Under the McCain-Feingold Political Speech Suppression Act, is the New York Times discount given to their like-minded leftist kooks at considered a campaign contribution? Shouldn't all of the money spent by the New York Times to produce their rag be considered a campaign contribution to the Democrat party? Will the New York Times now accept a limit of $100,000 per year to produce their worthless product? The New York Times and its useful idiots (aka their "reporters") claim that money has nothing to do with speech, so I'm confident that the New York Times will have no objection and can publish their "news"paper and pay their employees with only $100,000 per year. Right?

    September 23, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  13. Carmen, Miami FL

    JB –

    I felt the same back when the Swift Boaters were Swift Boating Kerry, that it took away from the important issues, and that Republicans used the ads for political gain at the expense of the welfare of the country. Think about how much time was spent on the Swift Boaters, and how much time was spent on important issues. It's political maneuvering at its worst.

    There is so much that this country needs to address, this MoveOn ad should be a two-sentence news brief, not the subject of countless articles and a vote in the Senate.

    This Time article on political umbrage says it all:,8599,1663424,00.html

    September 23, 2007 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  14. Deborah H. Arrington, Kingsport, Tennessee

    I agree with Paul Conley. It is clear that General Petraeus gave the testimony demanded by his Commander in Chief.....Otherwise, he would have been looking at a hasty retirement. In our form of gov't, the military is supposed to be under civilian control. The Bush-Cheney administration is using General Petraeus as a human shield against the well-deserved flack pointed their way. And they're even sending this general to meet with the Prime Minister of Great Britain!!!! I thought that was the sort of thing handled by the State Dept.?

    September 23, 2007 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  15. Andrew, Jakarta, Indonesia

    There are material differences between the Petraeus ad and the Swiftboat ads.

    Firstly John Kerry was running for political office. General Petraeus is not.
    Secondly, John Kerry cited his "war hero" status as material to his eligibility for that office. Again Petraeus is not campaigning for anything.
    Thirdly, the Swift Boat veterans are a group of named individuals who shared similar experiences with Kerry in Vietnam, and based of their knowledge of him both at that time and subsequently, expressed misgivings about his ability to serve as Commander – in – Chief. As they are entitled to do.
    MoveOn, on the other hand, is an anonymous organisation, clearly motivated on one side of the political spectrum, which, as far as is known (given the anonymity) shares litlle common experience with, or personal knowledge of, General Petraeus whatsoever. Other than the fact that both groups used print media, there are no similarities whatsoever.

    September 23, 2007 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  16. C. Mass, Washington D.C.

    Hey Paul and you have definitive proof that General Petraeus doctored his testimony to Congress about the state of military affairs in Iraq? I would like to see the evidence that he purposely altered his account in order to meet the demands of the President. Or are you just saying this because you are anti-war and anti-Bush???

    What are you basing this conclusion on? Have you physically been on the ground in Iraq for the past few years? Do you have first hand knowledge of the political/security situation. Why do you not believe the assessment of the guy who is on the ground and working everyday with the people that matter?

    I smell an agenda here.

    September 23, 2007 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  17. Chima, York, PA

    Ealier this year, after Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska spoke out strongly against this war in Iraq, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh slammed Hagel and called him "Senator Betrayus".
    Now...where was the outrage from those on the Right?

    September 23, 2007 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  18. C. Mass, Washington D.C.

    Hey Paul and you have definitive proof that General Petraeus doctored his testimony to Congress about the state of military affairs in Iraq? I would like to see the evidence that he purposely altered his account in order to meet the demands of the President. Or are you just saying this because you are anti-war and anti-Bush???

    What are you basing this conclusion on? Have you physically been on the ground in Iraq for the past few years? Do you have first hand knowledge of the political/security situation. Why do you not believe the assessment of the guy who is on the ground and working everyday with the people that matter?

    I smell an agenda here.

    September 23, 2007 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  19. Patrick Kunc, Bartlesville Oklahoma

    I think its funny that just because Petraeus agreed with Bush that it had to be because its what his boss wanted to hear or that he would be fired if he disagreed NOT that that's what his actual opinion was. Why can't people with anti-war views just consider that this was his actual opinion and that it doesn't make him just Bush crony. Perhaps what Bush thinks about Iraq is in fact correct and this is being confirmed by the top general on the ground.

    September 23, 2007 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  20. Jack, LA, OK

    Should the Democrats control the House, Senate, and Whitehouse after the next election the call from all American citizens will be,

    "General, Pray for Us"

    September 24, 2007 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  21. David, Roseburg OR

    This hoopla over this ad and many other such events and statements from our leaders have lead to more and more division between both sides of the political spectrum.

    Our elected politicians and the ones running for office should try working toward unifying us by talking about the issues rather than some ad or calling others traitors for their beliefs.

    At this point we are so divided that it has gotten down to even the posters here stating that others should not speak their opinions, how sad is that?

    We could at least be talking over this type of disagreement in a civil way and still get our points across.

    No matter which politician, president or cabinet member were to be thirsty I would give them water, if they were hungry I would be willing to break bread with them and if they are wounded I would help them. Now don't get me wrong, I would not invite most of them to a game of cards or for a BBQ, however I do not hate them on any level.

    September 24, 2007 05:23 am at 5:23 am |
  22. Ed,Ellenville,New York

    When you act as a promoter of a right-wing political agenda while wearing the uniform,you have crossed an ethical line that only the intelligent people can see.You posters are blind to his crime,as you are blind to the crimes of the bush administration.This mental inability on your part is very sad indeed.MRI testing would eliminate you from speaking beyond your intellectual capacity.We know the cause of your dysfunction,but we don't have a cure.So keep on trying to shred the constitution until we can get a screening program,it's a flaw in your thinking that let's the rest of us know that you have a handicap.

    September 24, 2007 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  23. JB Boston MA

    C Mass-

    Right on! You took the words out of my mouth.


    "I agree with Paul Conley. It is clear that General Petraeus gave the testimony demanded by his Commander in Chief"

    Why is it clear? What do you know that I do not. I visit many different news sites, I watch alot of news programs on TV, listen to the radio all day (NPR-FOX-CNN-MSNBC-BBC, I have Sirius Sat), and ultimately, I have to decide who to believe in. Often times info differs on those stations.

    I am willing to bet you have never been there. I know that many of the Congressmen who comment, have never been there.

    I also know that General Patreus is an amazing man. Many Congressmen thought the same until recently, when it became important politically to destroy him. Let me remind you, a General is position that takes decades to obtain. It is not a politcal position. This guy in my opinion has been railroaded, and for you to run around saying it is clear he lied (in effect that is what you are saying), is absurd. And truly you should be ashamed of your self. The truth is, you have decided to believe what you want to believe. Anything that came out of Patreus's mouth that was contrary to that, you were, along with many Congressmen, going to scream bulls$%$$. What was the point of the hearing again? I thought it was to listen to the person in charge over there, and get an idea of what is going on. We should have all saved alot of time and had Deborah tell us what was going on.

    Sorry, needed to vent.

    September 24, 2007 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  24. WDRussell, East Liverpool, Ohio

    Is it 64K or 140K? At the same time Freedoms Watch has spent 15 million running add that promote war. And both of them have a right to do it.

    Why did the General refuse to be sworn in?

    September 24, 2007 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  25. Laura Niles MI

    I fail to understand how EVERYONE can so conveniently FORGET that the MoveOn ad was in RESPONSE to the ANNOUNCEMENT, several days BEFORE the testimony, that the WHITE HOUSE would be writing the report and that there would be NO TRANSCRIPT. SAME OLD BUSHISMS COMING OUT OF THE GENERALS MOUTH. And I don't care if he made him little speech about writing the report himself with flags waving around him and everyone in the room with their hands over their hearts, it still would have been a lie just like "Mission Accomplished". SOMEBODY HAS TO HAVE THE GUTS TO SPEAK UP NO MATTER THE CONSEQUENCES AND MOVEON SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE THE GUTS. Also, anything Bush thinks is disgusting must be a very good thing. I think it's disgusting that Bush has gone on his own and made this North American merge deal with Mexico and Canada to remove our borders and make all of North America one big country with the other two being the winners. If you want to know more about that go to and find out for yourself. Anyone who is FOR this deal is a traitor for real. And this deal was made by a moron who has no idea what sovereign means. You can see him on video trying to explain it. Personally, I think most of those who are crying about the ad are more mad that it stuck some truth in their faces than that it call the general Betray Us and they need to pay more attention to the destruction of our country all hidden under the guise of "National Security".

    September 24, 2007 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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