[MINI UPDATE: Please check the gay marriage update at the bottom. This post is very topical.]
Here is the lead paragraph from a NY Times story by the highly regarded Jodi Wilgoren and Bill Keller:
When President Bush took on the issue of embryonic stem cell research in 2001, he framed it as a moral dilemma. He summoned members of the clergy and ethicists, as well as scientists, to counsel him. He prayed over it. His verdict - he imposed strict limits on medical research using the cells derived from human embryos - paid homage to human life as "a sacred gift from our creator."
One might almost think that (a) this was an important issue that has received a lot of attention, and (b) the Times reporters did some research, even digging up a Bush quote.
Or one might think the Times chose (c) present the Kerry spin - although it is an important issue, these two reporters manage to grossly misrepresent Bush's final position. He did not, repeat NOT, "[impose] strict limits on medical research using the cells derived from human embryos."
I am open to suggestions as to how the Timesmen (and women) managed to get this wrong.
In the next few days, a little-noticed correction will appear. Great.
Daniel Okrent, the NY Times Public Editor, can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Possible Times weasel-defense:
- Bush did indeed impose a strict limit, which was to restrict Federal funding. Fine, but even Kerry includes that "Federal funding" qualification, at least in this WaPo story and at his website. Is the Times reporting, or spinning? Don't answer!
Put another way, is is reasonable to wonder whether readers who rely on the Times for their information will misinterpret the Times presentation, and would it be too difficult for the Times to re-write this to be more accurate and informative? How about "he imposed strict limits *on Federal funding* of medical research using ..."
UPDATE 2: Priceless Kerryism (and how did I miss it?):
"The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position. But they're out there misleading people and exploiting it."
We explored the Senator's "position" last February. A little soundbite:
I wonder whether the Senator has emphasized the fluidity of his position in his recent appearances. Has he made it clear that he differs with gay marriage advocates only on matters of timing and tactics?