NYT Ignored Reality at 2001 Bush Inauguration; Now Ignorance Is History

19 January 2017 — FAIR

NBC News coverage of the 2001 inaugurationIt was much harder for TV than for newspapers to downplay the reality that George W. Bush was greeted in 2001 by massive protests.

Discussing the security challenges posed by the inauguration of Donald Trump, the New York Times (1/18/17) reported:

Those numbers are quite likely to be larger than any seen at an inauguration since at least the Vietnam War era. Mr. Bush’s 2001 inauguration attracted modest protest action, the largest in more recent memory, but it was largely disorganized and caused no significant disruptions.

The link in that passage goes back to the Times‘ 2001 coverage of the inauguration—coverage that was critiqued by FAIR at the time under the headline “Ignoring Reality at the Inauguration” (Extra!, 3–4/01):

The New York Times editorial the day after George W. Bush’s inauguration (“A Vision of Unity,” 1/21/01) predicted, based on the inaugural address, that Bush could “lift the nation to a new era of inclusion and social justice,” and found room to describe how “the gloomy light of a winter’s day was offset by splashes of color like Laura Bush’s blue coat.”

But it didn’t find space to mention the most striking feature of the 2001 inauguration: that it occurred amidst widespread and angry protests rejecting the legitimacy of Bush’s claim to office, the likes of which have not been faced by any modern president. Along the parade route, he was confronted by signs with messages like “Shame,” “Bush Lost” and “Hail to the Thief.” The London Guardian (1/22/01) reported that the inaugural parade “fell well short of being triumphant, and on many occasions during its slow advance through the drizzle, the sound of jeering drowned out the cheers.”

But the front page of the New York Times showcased stories like “Bush, Taking Office, Calls for Civility, Compassion and ‘Nation of Character’; Unity Is a Theme” and “Proud Father and Son Bask in History’s Glow”—both of which discussed Bush’s teary-eyed father while avoiding any mention of protesters.

While the Times‘ news editors could not totally ignore the estimated 20,000 demonstrators, they did their best to downplay them, placing the one story about them (“Protesters in the Thousands Sound Off in the Capital”) on page 17, the sixth out of eight pages of inauguration coverage. This article featured one quote from Rev. Al Sharpton and one from a demonstrator who spoke of the “inchoate feeling” that led her to march. This abbreviated presentation of the viewpoints of the tens of thousands of anti-Bush protesters was “balanced” by another quote from one of the 100 anti-abortion activists who demonstrated outside Planned Parenthood’s offices.

All told, the story measured 15 column inches out of eight full pages of inauguration coverage. (It was about three-fourths the length of “Floridians of the GOP Savor ‘Special Victory,” on page 18.) The accompanying photo, a tiny 2? x 3? shot of one of the day’s anti-Bush marches, was the only one out of 19 inauguration-related photos in the paper to show any sign of dissent.

Given the paper of record’s strenuous downplaying of the 2001 inaugural protests in the name of “Tradition and Legitimacy,” it’s not surprising that 16 years later, the paper’s reporters remember those protests as being “modest.”

Jim Naureckas is the editor of FAIR.org. You can find him on Twitter at @JNaureckas.

You can send a message to the New York Times at letters@nytimes.com, or write to public editor Liz Spayd at public@nytimes.com (Twitter:@NYTimes or @SpaydL). Please remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

Read the original post here.

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