Why the Times’ latest excuse isn’t credible

I really like James Taranto, who writes at the WSJ’s Opinion Journal.  I think he’s wise and witty, but even the wisest and wittiest can sometimes be wrong — as I think he is this time.

Taranto takes exception to Charles Johnson’s belief that the LA Times is lying when it says that it can’t release the Khalidi/Obama videotape because it made a promise to its source not to do so.  Andrew McCarthy thinks the same, but Taranto’s not buying.  This is because Taranto thinks the LA Times’ excuse sounds valid.  I think he misses the larger point.  I actually sat down and wrote Taranto a letter:

You express surprise that Charles Johnson, among others, finds incredible the LA Times latest excuse for refusing to release the Khalidi/Obama videotape.  To your mind, the excuse is a valid one, because you can readily envision realistic scenarios that would support this kind of excuse.  You’re correct.

However, Johnson’s incredulity (and mine, I might add) arises, not because of the actual merits of the excuse, but because of the fact that it took the Times three or four tries to come up with this one.  In other words, it’s probably not the truth because, had it been the truth, the Times would have advanced it immediately.  Instead, the Times spun like crazy until it finally came up with something that would satisfy media professionals.

In this regard, I should say that the Times‘ behavior is strongly reminiscent of Jon Lovitz’s famous pathological liar, a fixture of late-1980s Saturday Night television.  You remember him:  lie, after lie, after lie, until he finally hit upon one that sounded credible, at which point he’d rub his hands together and say, “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”  I think you just bought the Times’ ticket on this one.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Bill Smith

    I have been wondering why someone would give a newspaper a tape like that, and then say they couldn’t release it. Did he think they might be running low on blank tape? I don’t think so. I can see that the donor might want to remain anonymous, but you just don’t give a news outlet something like that, and then forbid them from doing what news organizations do.

  • Zhombre

    Your statement assumes the Times had earlier excuses that were credible. I’m not sure I accept that. I suspect credibility and major media parted company some time ago. Irreconcilable differences.

  • 11B40


    One of my father’s often repeated teaching tools went like this:

    “There’s a difference between a reason and an excuse; an excuse is a bad reason.”

  • Charles Martel

    I grew up in Los Angeles, so reading the Times was one of those things you just did, like taking the dog for a daily walk.

    By the time I was in my 20s and working as the editor on a small suburban weekly, I noticed that the LAT had adopted The New Yorker’s strategy of publishing turgid, endless articles that droned on, and on and on.

    One of my friends, who was as serious a newspaper reader as me, theorized that the final paragraphs of many LAT articles, so very far from their stories’ start, may well have ended up on planets circling distant stars.

    “If only there were readers who could live long enough to find out!” he sighed.

    Later, I noticed that the LAT had shifted to another tack and decided that affirmative action was the ticket. Around that time I had become a trade magazine editor and had interviewed a young Japanese-American man as a possible staffer.

    The kid was very energetic, and full of piss and vinegar. But I had to say no to him because our piddly little pub wasn’t the place to set the world on fire.

    He went on to become the LAT’s affirmative action officer. I remember wincing when I found that out, because his position was the equivalent to window dressing. He got named to it because he looked “not white,” which was all that the LAT was interested in. I also knew he would never be taken seriously, except as an obstacle to reporters with a politically incorrect skin color.

    Finally, the LAT took the last step along Kool-Aid Alley and descended into unapologetically far-left politics, like the NYT and the Chronicle.

    Turgidity, racism and sandbox leftist politics–whatta recipe! This latest caper is going to be one of the bigger nails in that rag’s coffin.

  • Tiresias

    Exactly, Bill. I noted that in an earlier post: who gives a tape – or any other “inside” information, for that matter – to an organization, or, if you prefer in LA, an “organ,” whose entire existence and reason for being is predicated precisely on disseminating such information?

    Nobody, that’s who. You can be an anonymous source if you like, but if you give them the tape, you do so in the full expectation that the information therein will be published.