Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist who sent his followers an uncivil, unprofessional and bigoted tweet regarding Mitt Romney and his faith during Wednesday’s debate [“Let me just tell you this Mitt ‘Muddle Mouth’: I’m a single parent and my kids are *amazing*! Stick that in your magic underwear.”] issued a fascinating…something...today in response to criticism, which did not come from the supposedly bigotry-sensitive left. He tweeted:
“Btw, the comment I made about Mormonism during Wed.’s debate was inappropriate, and I regret it. I’m willing to admit that with no caveats.”
It is fascinating to me that this is being called an apology by Blow’s supporters and conservative critics alike. If it is an apology, and that is open to dispute, I’d like someone to explain to me how Blow can use “regret” as a stand-in for “I apologize,” and yet the same commentators who are interpreting the word that way have insisted that President Obama’s repeated use of “regret”to refer to past U.S. foreign policy actions was not the equivalent of apologizing, and have in fact stated that this interpretation by conservative critics is “a lie.”
Though Blow’s statement is far easier to rebut as an apology than President Obama’s various public mea culpas, conservatives seem to be taking it as such. They deserve credit for consistency (in contrast to their counterparts on the left), but they are also clearly wrong:
1. “Regret,” in this case, simply means that Blow wishes he hadn’t tweeted the Mormon slur, since, I hope, someone from the Times told him that this wasn’t doing his paper any good. He didn’t say he was sorry.
2. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, Blow didn’t apologize for the tweet itself, which was unprofessional in its name-calling of Romney, as well as unjustified by anything Romney said during the debate.
3. “Btw” is an ungracious and intentionally offhand way of apologizing for something as serious as ridiculing a major U.S. church with millions of followers. If there was any lingering doubt in my mind that Blow is an arrogant jerk, this dispelled it.
Meanwhile, the Times’ “public editor,” Arthur Brisbane, has announced that he won’t be writing about Blow’s conduct, meaning that the official position of the New York Times apparently is that a columnist can publicly denigrate a religion and crudely show his contempt for a candidate for office by name-calling without any consequences whatsoever. No? Is it that a liberal columnist can denigrate the religion of a Republican candidate? Or just Mormonism, but never Islam or Judaism? Or is it just that an African American columnist can denigrate religions and shrug it off with “btw” without consequences? I’m just asking for a clarification of standards here. What does the New York Times consider professional conduct? Are there different rules by race, party affiliation and religion under attack?
Or doesn’t the Times care about standards and journalistic ethics? That would seem to be the message when the newspaper’s ethics watchdog doesn’t deem such an incident worthy of analysis. is that the case?
And I want to know how the progressives and left-leaning journalists who actively look for opportunities to cry “Bigotry!” can refuse to criticize Blow and still maintain the myth of integrity, fairness, and objectivity. Blow’s tweet shouldn’t be a partisan issue: it was unequivocally wrong. If Blow’s fellow ideological camp-members want to demonstrate that they know what integrity is, they can begin by either admitting that President Obama has apologized around the world as they accept Blow’s “regret” as an apology, or they can agree that Blow did not in fact apologize for engaging in religious bigotry, and that this is acceptable to them….and the New York Times.
It has to be one or the other, and we have a right to know which—unless, of course, the real answer is that fairness and consistency are subordinate to partisan combat.