September 23rd, 2007
01:30 PM ET
15 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. Andrew Mark, NYC

    It seems pretty obvious that Move-on's primary motive in running the pre-emptive ad was to give fair warning that more baloney stats will no longer be met only with press releases.

    I, for one, only wish that people like Move-on had been screaming louder five years ago... before we wasted 3000 of our kids... 1000's upon 1000's of Iraqi's... for what?

    Iraq has become a horror: Bush has made France right.

    Move-on: keep screaming: anything we can do to reduce our presence there, will, in the long run, result in fewer deaths all 'round.

    September 24, 2007 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  2. Tom - Dedham, Mass

    Direct quote from the Shrill one and posted here:

    "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".

    Excuse me, your lying "Senator", you voted against this unlike 20 of your fellow Democrats who saw it for what it was.

    What were saying when you said in order to believe him would require a "willing suspension of disbelief", sounds like you are PERSONALLY calling him a liar.

    Secondly for you people that can't read, the person who keeps bringing this UP, works for the NYT, is hammering the NYT and I don't think is a Republican as they don't allow for that.

    Lastly, when the NYT refused to print those muslim cartoons last year AT ANY PRICE, were so you so enlightened progressives shouting CENSORSHIP back then or were you in the belief that it would have offended muslims?

    Lets summarize shall we, no problem "offending" a General BEFORE he even speaks even though the General is in charge of our men and women in combat RIGHT NOW.

    Protect our muslim friends from being offended by CARTOONS, even though a SMALL segment of the muslim population had already proven the cartoons to be truthful.

    Sounds right huh???????

    September 24, 2007 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. demwit

    Hoyt has only confirmed what we already knew.., the New York Times is corrupt. Its current leadership is using its circulation, which took centuries to build, in an attempt to influence elections. This is not the first but it is the most obvious. These idiots are blind to the damage that has been done to the papers credibility.

    Who buys newspapers and magazines for political opinions? Thus the continued lost of circulation. The old gray mare just ain't what she use to be...

    September 24, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  4. C. Mass, Washington D.C.

    Ed from NY...I'm glad our country has someone as smart as you around. Makes me feel sleep better at night.

    Since you have such keen intellect that the rest of us lack, maybe you can SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE that General Petraeus purposely altered his Congressional testimony in order to meet the demands of the President.

    By the way...using a NY Times op ed or someone's blog or because told me so does not constitute is hearsay. But I'm sure you already knew that since you are so much smarter than the rest of us 🙂

    September 24, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  5. RightyTighty

    Sounds very much like censorship in the garb of propriety to me.
    - pl. at the UN for a while.

    I can see your confusion on our freedoms, their limits and associated unbias credibilities. All very confusing for UN personal, I'm sure..

    September 24, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Joe, Florida

    Freedom of SPEECH!!

    This is just trying to make Hillary and the Democrats look bad; it has absolutely no legal base. Notice how no serious legal has been taken because if any legal action was taken towards, they can appeal to U.S. Supreme Court, who will rule it unconstitutional.

    September 24, 2007 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  7. James, Phoenix AZ

    Joe – Florida,

    You wrote, "Notice how no serious legal has been taken because if any legal action was taken towards, they can appeal to U.S. Supreme Court, who will rule it unconstitutional."

    Ummm Joe – no one is calling Moveon.Org's despicable ad "illegal". Just as the 5 wealthy liberals (Soros, Sandler, Lowe, Bing) can use Moveon.Org as a front for their political agenda.... the rest of America can call on political leaders to denounce this ad and this pathetic group.

    Andew from Jakarta and Greg from Phoenix – THANK YOU for your posts. Both of you are right on the mark!

    1. Moveon.Org created and purchased advertising space with the NY Times BEFORE hearing the General's Testimony.

    2. General Petreaus ISNT running for office and isn't a political figure. He is a military leader giving his report to Congress. Political leaders can disagree with his conclusions – but calling him a "liar" (Hillary) or traitor (Moveon.Org) is plain wrong.

    September 24, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. MaryE Tallahassee, Fla

    what a bunch of wimps. Where is FREE SPEECH today? "Evil perviels when good men do nothing" Keep bowing to be Political correct the USA will NEVER be the same. Sent all the illegals HOME to their land.Shame on you NewYork Times

    September 24, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. Ryan, New York, NY

    Hillary voted for Boxer's bill, which condemned the ad, the Swiftboat ads, and the Max Cleland ads. Whether you choose to believe her or not, at least she can claim that she condemned all of them, unlike your Republicans that choose to only cry about these things when their people and programs are being criticized. It's too bad the Boxer version isn't being talked about as much, as it would shine a beacon on Republican hypocrisy yet again, but I understand, since that isn't really "news" lately.

    Oh, and BTW, I agree with the criticism of the NYT over the cartoons because I support free speech.

    September 24, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Ali, Ithaca, NY

    To all who say that Petraeus is a shill for the Bush administration, and thus deserves no respect, think about this. Just because someone doesn't say what you want them to say, that doesn't mean they're not being honest and objective. Sometimes, you're not going to like the truth, and sometimes the truth is going to (unfortunately) aid your political enemy, but that doesn't mean that it is a lie, or that the messenger is wrong or disingenuous.

    If you have proof that he's lying, and that what you hope to be true on the ground in Iraq is fact, I'd love to see it. Otherwise, consider that he may know better than you what the situation is.

    September 24, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Margie Fletcher Portland Oregon

    One poster says "if you can't prove Bush is lying then he isn't". How interesting that is. Ok, let's say that his administration claims EVERYTHING they are ever asked for is a "national security" matter and thus, secret from all, including congress (read up; never has a President succeeded in this level of secrecy).

    Let's say that this man has more "secrets" than the Republicans "most hated one", Mr. Clinton ever thought of, not to mention his signing statements. So Ali, are you saying that's all just......for fun? Because, well......he can and NOT because he has somethingS to hide?

    Give me a break. I heard him myself say that if we were hearing about wiretaps, they required a warrant, and since then the deputy attorney General has TESTIFIED that they were NOT getting warrants for AT LEAST a month at that time!

    Nope, he's not keeping secrets that aren't "really" endangering national security for the fun of it Ali, so let's NOT say he "isn't a liar". He certainly is. That isn't the "only" time he's lied DIRECTLY to us over our TV sets. But perhaps you missed it all.

    Still, whether YOU missed it or not, this administration has lied many times and some of it has been about their doings which are NOT [truly]legal. Lucky for them, their home-made Lawyers are sure they've found a way around these laws and so far, it's worked well.

    Keep one thing in mind; Nixon was lying and breaking laws BEFORE it had actually been "proven", so to insinuate that a person is definitely not guilty just because he cloaks his behavior behind a secrecy veil is naive at best and at worst partisan BS.

    Of course, During Nixon, our country had people who cared about more than partisanship; they cared about the constitution and "we the people".

    It's been detrimental to our nation that this has become the center of our politics. There is no place for it in a well run government. Ever.

    October 10, 2007 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
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