The New York Times’ abor­tion pro­pa­ganda story

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

It’s of­fi­cial: The edi­tors of The New York Times have no shame. Don’t take my word for it. Lis­ten to the Times’ own om­buds­man, By­ron Calame. On Dec. 31, Mr. Calame wrote a stun­ning col­umn de­bunk­ing an April 9 New York Times Mag­a­zine cover story on abor­tion in El Sal­vador. The sen­sa­tional piece by free­lance writer Jack Hitt al­leged that women there had been thrown in prison for 30-year terms for hav­ing had abor­tions. Hitt de­scribed his visit to one of them, in­mate Car­men Cli­maco. “She is now 26 years old, four years into her 30-year sen­tence” for abort­ing an 18-week-old fe­tus, Hitt re­ported.

The mag­a­zine fea­tured heartrend­ing pho­tos of Mrs. Cli­maco’s 11-year-old daugh­ter, eyes filled with tears as she clutched a photo of her jailed mom. Cruel. Hor­ri­ble. Out­ra­geous. And ut­terly, demon­stra­bly, false.

Mrs. Cli­maco had ac­tu­ally been con­victed of mur­der for stran­gling her new­born baby. This in­for­ma­tion was un­cov­ered by pro-life groups. Life­ ob­tained the court doc­u­ments in Mrs. Cli­maco’s case and pub­lished them on their Web site in late Novem­ber. Mr. Calame fol­lowed up and also in­de­pen­dently ob­tained the doc­u­ments eas­ily — records which Mr. Hitt didn’t bother to try and get for him­self to ver­ify the pro­pa­ganda be­ing fed to him. Re­ported Mr. Calame:

“The care taken in the re­port­ing and edit­ing of this ex­am­ple didn’t meet the mag­a­zine’s nor­mal stan­dards. Al­though Sarah H. Smith, the mag­a­zine’s edi­to­rial man­ager, told me that rel­e­vant court doc­u­ments are ‘nor­mally’ re­viewed, Mr. Hitt never checked the 7,600-word rul­ing in the Cli­maco case while pre­par­ing his story. And Mr. Hitt told me that no ed­i­tor or fact checker ever asked him if he had checked the court doc­u­ment con­tain­ing the panel’s de­ci­sion.”

Ob­tain­ing the pub­lic doc­u­ment was as easy as re­quest­ing that a stringer for the Times in El Sal­vador walk into the court build­ing with­out mak­ing any prior ar­range­ments. Which is ex­actly what Mr. Calame did. It took the stringer mere min­utes to get the court rul­ing.

The facts did not fit with Mr. Hitt’s pro-abor­tion nar­ra­tive. Au­thor­i­ties found Mrs. Cli­maco’s dead baby hid­den in a box wrapped in bags un­der the bed of Mrs. Cli­maco. More­over, Life­site re­ported, foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion showed that it was a full-term nor­mal de­liv­ery. The child was breath­ing at the time of birth. The of­fi­cial cause of death was as­phyxia by stran­gu­la­tion.

Mr. Hitt’s main sources of info came from a pro-abor­tion group called Ipas. The group would profit from le­gal­ized abor­tion in El Sal­vador since it ped­dles abor­tion vac­uum as­pi­ra­tors. Mr. Hitt’s trans­la­tor con­sulted for Ipas, which launched a fund-rais­ing cam­paign to free Mrs. Cli­maco and bring her to Amer­ica. Proabor­tion groups re­cy­cled Mrs. Cli­maco’s story, cit­ing the Times’ bo­gus pro­pa­ganda to scare up op- po­si­tion to any abor­tion re­stric­tions here.

The Times’ pro-abor­tion poster child is a wo­man con­victed of in­fan­ti­cide. But the Times, ques- tioned by its own pub­lic ed­i­tor, re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge Mr. Hitt’s false re­port­ing.

There is “no rea­son to doubt the ac­cu­racy of the facts as re­ported,” the edi­tors im­pe­ri­ously told Mr. Calame. They refuse to is­sue a cor­rec­tion, pub­lish an Edi­tors’ Note or in­form their read­ers of the ready avail­abil­ity of the court de­ci­sion that ex­poses Mr. Hitt’s de­cep­tion about the Cli­maco case.

Mr. Calame con­cluded that “Ac­cu­racy and fair­ness were not pur­sued with the vigor Times read­ers have a right to ex­pect.” That’s too po­lite. The Times slung bull and they refuse to clean it up. The Times’ Cli­maco-gate, like the As­so­ci­ated Press’ Jamil Hus­sein-gate and Reuters’ faux­tog­ra­phy scan­dal and CBS’s Rather­gate, will go down in main­stream his­tory as yet an­other case of text­book me­dia mal­prac­tice.

The next time you hear a New York Times colum­nist de­fend the pa­per’s com­mit­ment to ac­cu­racy, fair­ness and eth­i­cal stan­dards, give them two words: Car­men Cli­maco. The next time jour­nal­ism elites won­der why news­pa­per cir­cu­la­tion is plung­ing, re­mem­ber: Car­men Cli­maco. The next time MSM apol­o­gists deny lib­eral bias, ask them rhetor­i­cally — “At­las Shrugged”-style — “Who is Car­men Cli­maco?”

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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