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AIR ENRON: THE NYTIMES SPEAKS! (OR RATHER, WHISPERS)

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 11, 2005 10:39 PM

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After 15 days of silence, the New York Times has filed a thin little report on the Air Scamerica/Air Enron fiasco. But you need a magnifying glass to find it. Go the the NYTimes.com homepage. Nothing there. Click over the National section. Nothing there. Find your way to the NY/Region section. Scroll way down past the featured stories.

Aha! There it is:

Bronx Boys Club’s Finances Investigated

The article is a rehash of everything blogs and a sprinkling of MSM outlets have already reported. Underwhelming. Entirely expected. And wholly inadequate given the paper’s massive previous coverage of Air America.

Send your thoughts on the NYTimes’ slothful reporting to ombudsman Byron Calame (public@nytimes.com).

Update: Check out the Times’ Dowdification of Al Franken’s quote about what happened to the money.

The NYTimes reports:

“I don’t know why he did it,” Mr. Franken said, according to a transcript of the broadcast made by the Department of Investigation. “I don’t know where the money went. I don’t know if it was used for operations. I think he was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.”

Here’s what Franken actually said (via audio at Brainster’s Blog and transcript
at Brian Maloney, who busted this story wide open in the blogosphere the Times sneers at):

I don’t know why they did it, and I don’t know where the money went, I don’t know if it was used for operations [softer, especially fast], which I imagine it was. I think he was robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The omission of those five little words matters because Al Franken’s actual statement suggests that the money was in fact stolen from poor kids to pay Air America’s bills–a speculation that the Times attributes to “conservative-leaning blogs,” but not to the Times’ favorite liberal talk show host who said it himself.

(Hat tip: Reader Michael V.)

(Boldface added to the word “they” at 10:48 am eastern time. Thanks to Patterico for calling this to my attention.)

Mr. Calame, care to explain the omission?

Update II: Leon H. at Macho Nachos...

The good news is that the Times was only behind the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Oregonian, the Washington Times, the Sun, the Post, the Daily News, the Opinion Journal, Investors Business Daily and about a zillion blogs (with no editors!) on this story that almost exclusively happened within the confines of New York. It also makes you wonder, given the fact that papers from across the country beat them by several days, why this story was carried in the local/regional section.

Lance McMurray at RedStateRant:

“What, were we expecting The NY Times to use it’s power to do some investigative journalism on Air America? I think we all knew better but had hoped that journalistic integrity would trump partisan newsroom politics.”

Captain Ed:

The worst part of the report is the lack of investigative vigor displayed. There isn’t a fact written that hasn’t been on the blogs for at least 48 hours. Well, it’s a start. Knowing the Times, it’s probably a finish, too.

One of Ed’s commenters, RBMN, notes:

the New York Times should let the FBI know that “robbing” is the same thing as “borrowing.” Imagine all the misunderstandings at our nations banks, and how much time that could free up for the FBI.

Our work continues…

More: Reader Kristinn Taylor points out that the Times quietly removed one sentence from its article late last night, less than two hours after this post was initially published:

Original version:

nytimes-mentions-me.JPG

New version:

nytimes-omits-me.JPG

The Times does not acknowledge or explain the edit. For the record, I have never stated that someone at Air America stole the money to pay the network’s bills. Obviously that is a possibility that ought to be investigated. Another possibility is that former Air America chairman Evan Cohen pilfered the money for his own use, though it should be stressed that Cohen has neither been charged nor convicted of a crime. The headline of the post referenced in the original version of the Times article included a question mark, which (as even the Times acknowledged) means I was asking a question.

There are of course some people who have stated unequivocally that the money was stolen. One of them is Air America defender Bill Press, who asserted on Your World with Neil Cavuto that the Boys & Girls Club money was embezzled by Cohen. Al Franken has implied that Cohen stole the money, but has also stated several times that he doesn’t know what happened to the money. (He told the New York Sun “he did not know whether the hundreds of thousands of dollars apparently lent to the radio network by a Bronx social-service organization had indeed been relayed to Air America” and, as noted above, said on his radio show that “I don’t know where the money went, I don’t know if it was used for operations, which I imagine it was.”)

***

The New York Sun reports that the city Department of Investigation began its probe 19 months ago–5 months before Piquant LLC bought Air America’s assets from the previous owners in May 2004. So did the city disclose the investigation to Air America’s managers before or after the Piquant buyout? And did Air America’s managers first find out about the questionable loan from a “forensic” accounting investigation, as Al Franken has asserted, or from the city?

See also Captain Ed’s post, “Air America: Gloria Wise Not An ‘Appropriate Source’?”

***

A reader informs me that this morning’s USA Today includes a brief item on the loan scandal in its print edition. Can anyone confirm this? I can’t find anything online. [Update: I’m told the item actually appeared on Wednesday August 10 in the Nationline column on page 3A, written by Mark Memmott.]

***

To celebrate the Times’ inaugural article about the Air America / Boys & Girls Club loan, let us remember its fawning coverage of the liberal radio network during the spring of 2004:

– On March 11, 2004, the Times Business section introduced Air America in a story titled “Liberal Talk Radio Network To Start Up in Three Cities.”

– On March 21, 2004, the Times Magazine ran a 7,659-word cover story about Al Franken titled “Al Franken, Seriously So.” The reporter, Russell Shorto, said that everyone he talked to “agreed that Al Franken has excellent prospects for success in talk radio.” He also reports that “Franken’s political views are more eclectic than you might imagine.” Riiiiight.

– On March 31, 2004–the day of Air America’s debut–the Times ran a 1,403 word puff piece on page E1. The reporter, Jaques Steinberg, said Air America host Jeaneane Garofalo is merely “poking fun” at Karl Rove when she accuses him of pursuing ”the elusive 18-25 Klan demo” as if accusing a high-ranking White House official of pandering to one of the most vile organizations in America is akin to telling a lighthearted knock knock joke.

– On April 1, 2004, media critic Alessandra Stanley followed up with a 752-word review of Franken’s first day on the air.

– On April 2, 2004, the front page of the metro section carried a 755-word article by reporter Clyde Haberman about the “debut of all-day Air America,” which had occurred the previous day.

***

Someone posted a note to the Public Editor’s Reader’s Forum about the Times’ incorrect Al Franken quote.

***

Naturally, Brian Maloney has more. Among other things, he notes that the Times left out key facts related to the manner in which Air America is reimbursing Gloria Wise.

***

Ann Althouse raises the possibility that the Times quote is correct. “Franken has a long talk show, and he does ramble on and repeat himself,” she notes. “Maybe he said both things.”

She has a point. It looks like audio files for all of Franken’s recent shows are available here. Franken first spoke about the loan scandal on the air on Monday. I’m asking for volunteers to listen to that show and all of Franken’s shows since then (i.e., Monday through Thursday). If eight people volunteer, I’ll assign two people to listen to each show. Please let me know if you’re interested.

Update: See here for response from NYC’s Dept. of Investigation to NYTimes’ erroneous reporting on the transcript.

***
Previous:

Air Enron: Heads roll, victims shafted
Air Enron: No letting up
Air Enron: Franken speaks again
Air Enron: Elite media blackout contd.
Air Enron: quotes of the day
Air Enron: Spitzer steps in
Air Enron: questions, questions
Air Enron: the blame game
Air Enron: thumb-twiddling MSM
Silence of the race hustlers
Air Enron: Al Franken speaks
Air Deadbeat: the saga continues
The Air America loophole
Air America is scrambling
Air America: Don’t blame us
Air America: Stealing from poor kids?!

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Categories: Air America, Al Franken

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