Speaking at the April 25 New York Times annual meeting, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, tried to justify the rejection of an ad calling attention to the alleged oppressive nature of the Islamic religion and the “vengeful, hateful and violent teachings” of Islam’s prophet. He said the ad might incite violence in the Middle East.
At the same time, he justified the placement of an anti-Catholic ad in The New York Times by saying, “We take political ads that we do not agree with. That is the nature of advocacy advertising.”
Representing Accuracy in Media, a shareholder in the company for the purpose of getting access to the annual meetings, I told Sulzberger, his executives and other Times shareholders, “You’re willing to offend the Catholics because they’re not going to come and kill you.”
The full-page, anti-Catholic ad ran on March 9 under the title “It’s time to quit the Catholic Church” and was sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It showed a cartoon of a Catholic Bishop going berserk over a birth control pill and urged Catholics to leave the church.
The ad against radical Islam, designed to test the paper’s commitment to fairness and freedom of expression, had a cartoon of a radical Imam upset over a smoldering Koran. It was sponsored and signed by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of Nations and the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
Addressing moderate Muslims, the ad said in part: “In light of the ongoing, ruthless, international jihad against non-Muslims, the 1,400-year record of institutionalized oppression of women, the 18,560 Islamic attacks across the world since 9/11, and the endangering of free peoples across the world, if you’re part of the Islamic jihad, you’re part of the problem.”
Questions over the ad were just one of several headaches for Sulzberger. Several stockholders took to the floor of the annual meeting to grill him over the paper’s editorial, news and advertising policies. One individual attacked the Times for an anti-Israel bias in its news coverage. Another said the company is unaccountable and does not answer legitimate questions from the public.
Sulzberger is also under a lot of pressure because of the company’s falling stock price and financial losses.
Fr. Colin McKenna of Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown, Connecticut, reamed Sulzberger over the anti-Catholic ad, wondering whether the paper would run an ad calling Islam’s Prophet Muhammad a pedophile for having a 6-year-old girl as a child bride.
McKenna, who said he had 100 shares in company stock, and that they had lost 50 percent of their value, said the paper was needlessly offending Catholics, who might be persuaded to buy the paper if it did not have such a strident anti-Catholic bias.
Sulzberger said the only ads the paper rejects are those which are obscene or dangerous to American soldiers. He did not elaborate on that latter point or allude to the fact that the Times had rejected other ads.
“Please do not confuse the ads we run with the positions we hold as journalists,” he said.
He failed to tell McKenna that the Times had rejected the Geller/Spencer ad that was supposed to run with the title of, “It’s Time to Quit Islam.”
We informed the shareholders, “…the fact is, Mr. Chairman, that in March you rejected a similar kind of ad directed at radical Islam submitted by Pamela Geller…You didn’t tell him [McKenna] that.”
Sulzberger shot back: “What I did say was that unless there’s an obscenity or it puts our troops in danger. I did say that sir. I did not mention the ad in particular.”
Sulzberger claimed that the Geller/Spencer ad would have endangered the lives of our troops in Afghanistan, at a time when there was a controversy and violence over the burning of Korans. “And that is why we chose not to run that ad,” he said. He called it a “unique” situation.
Sulzberger added: “If we had run that ad, and one of our troops had died because of it, you’d be here calling me a troop killer.”
Sulzberger did not explain to the shareholders how an ad in the print edition of the Times could have further incited terrorists in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers.
McKenna later told AIM that he was unfamiliar with the fact that the ad was rejected. The Times, of course, did not tell its readers about the rejection.
Pamela Geller rejected the Times’ rationale, saying, “It is most disingenuous for The New York Times to refuse to run our counter-jihad ad based on their ‘concern for US troops in Afghanistan.’ Liars. Who has done more to jeopardize our troops and American citizens than the pro-jihadist New York Times? They are notorious for their treasonous reportage.”
She explained that the paper has “done more to jeopardize the safety of our troops than any mainstream media outlet, with the possible exception of Newsweek. How many front page stories ran on Abu Ghraib? Who leaked the NSA wiretaps under FISA, jeopardizing not just troops but American citizens, or the highly classified Pentagon order authorizing special ops to hunt for al-Qaeda in the mountains of Pakistan?”
Newsweek had run a phony story about American troops flushing a Koran down a toilet.
The rejection of the ad, Geller maintained, amounts to the paper enforcing Sharia, or Islamic law, for the radical Islamists. She added, “What is lower than using our brave men and women to cover for the Times’ cowardice and anti-freedom editorial policies?”
We told Sulzberger that his alleged concern for American lives in the Middle East was hard to believe, considering that the paper has been waging attacks on the New York City Police Department and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for conducting surveillance of radical Muslims in order to prevent terrorist attacks.
Just three days after the annual meeting, the Times launched an attack on the FBI for trying to prevent terrorist attacks. The opinion piece by David K. Shipler, a former Times reporter, criticized the agency for using undercover agents and informants to identify and apprehend potential Islamic terrorists.
It carried the headline, “Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I.,” as if the FBI was to blame for Islamists expressing their desire and willingness to engage in anti-American terrorism.
Rusty Weiss, author of an AIM Center for Investigative Journalism report on the Times campaign against the NYPD, said the attack on the FBI provides additional proof that the paper regards law enforcement as the problem, not the radical Islamists.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at [email protected].
Accuracy in Media