Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whoops! In Page-One Story, NYT's Jennifer Steinhauer Confuses The Words "Arab" And "Terrorist." An Easy Mistake.

In Jennifer Steinhauer's page-one report on John McCain's Senate campaign today, she refers to a memorable 2008 campaign incident -- when McCain defended Barack Obama against a supporter who referred to the Democratic candidate as an "Arab."

"No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues," McCain said at the rally, on October 10, 2008, according to the NYT's original report. (Here's a link to a video of the event.)

But in today's recounting of the episode, Steinhauer made the unfortunate slip of conflating the words "Arab" and "terrorist."

"Back in 2008, at a town-hall-style meeting," Steinhauer wrote, "presidential candidate McCain snatched the microphone away from an older woman who referred to Mr. Obama as a terrorist and protested: 'No, no ma’am. He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.'"

Hmmm. Not such a serious mistake, really. Not unless you're an Arab who isn't also a terrorist!

UPDATE: The NYT has published this correction of the Steinhauer article in its Wednesday editions:

A Political Memo article on Tuesday about Senator John McCain’s having gone from presidential candidate to a senator furiously defending his seat quoted incorrectly from a comment about Barack Obama at a town-hall-style meeting during the 2008 campaign. Mr. McCain came to the defense of Mr. Obama when a woman at the meeting called him “an Arab” — she did not say “a terrorist.”

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

oooh dear. oooooooooh dear oh dear. firing offence?

Anonymous said...

McCain's response suggests that he, too, took "Arab" to mean "terrorist."

Anonymous said...

Back in 2008, at a town-hall-style meeting, presidential candidate McCain snatched the microphone away from an older woman who referred to Mr. Obama as "an Arab" and protested: “No, no ma’am. He’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”
---------------------
Here's a different version of the paragraph, written from the point of view of a non-journalist, pro-McCain recreational reader:

At a 2008 townhall, presidential candidate McCain snatched the microphone away from an older woman who had derogatorily referred to Mr. Obama as "an Arab" to contest, “No, no Ma’am, he’s a decent family man with whom I happen to have some disagreements.”

An Arab is not a derogatory designation, but intended as such in a bigoted tone (with vehement disdain) by a bigot-- i.e. a person who has not examined the assumptions behind blanket negative sentiments toward a disadvantaged group or category-- and mistakenly replaced as terrorist by a begrudged and frustrated voice, the journalist's, and inadequately reverted to in subsequent correction, it becomes a word for provocation and a source of tension. This matters not only to Arabs.

Anonymous said...

There is no basis to deal with this as unforgivable, unless the slant was spiced in with premeditation. If in initial drafts, she had Arab and then subbed in terrorist to make a point (also called shooting yourself in the foot ) then there's reason to make a case for the boot, but if she inadvertently wrote from memory and nobody caught it in review, then it's as you title it: whoops! Though it's very polite of you to label it as an easy mistake, it'd be more accurately termed a typical bias.

Lindsay Beyerstein said...

So, the audience member insinuated that Obama was a terrorist by calling him an "Arab." McCain put his foot in his mouth when he reflexively rebutted the charge behind the coded language. The exchange was funny because he forgot the rules of the language game: Republican elected officials aren't allowed to let on that they know the code they use to communicate with their base.

lesdmd said...

I can't get away from the fact that Ms. Steinhauer is,intentionally or not, re-writing history. Whether "Arab" is/was code for "terrorist", what the intent was behind the question, how McCain interpreted the wording, are all subjects worthy of analysis; but the bottom line is that a correction notice from the Times is warranted. Let's not allow a news article revise the recorded evidence.

Anonymous said...

The only person who insinuated that an Arab is a terrorist is Steinhauer, and there was a correction. Having your say and taking it back doesn't quite tarnish the record.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Steinhauer's mistake. A page-one story is read by several editors, all of whom must have signed off on this. Do they all have the same faulty memory?

Anonymous said...

'Arab' was spoken by Gayle Quinnell, from MN, who may also be attributed with the following:

Can’t trust Obama....he’s got muslim in him

‘Terrorist’ comes from a reporter’s desperate attempt to feed a word into the mouth of an old lady.

Anonymous said...

did you guys ever find out if Leslie Buck really singlehandedly designed the iconic Anthora coffee cup as the Times obit page of of April 28 said penned by Margalit Fox? Pundits in St. Louis say otherwise now.

dan said...

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http://zippy1300.blogspot.com/2010/06/new-york-times-memo-on-damien-cave.html

NYT MEMO Christ or Crist..? /new-york-times-memo-on-damien-cave.

dan said...

just google this for google news to see

''damien cave memo charle christ''