Slate Takes on NYT from the Left in Defending Liberal Linda Greenhouse

In a twist, Slate's legal writers Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick defend Linda Greenhouse against both National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan's criticism of her conflict of interest involving her husband, the anti-Bush activist lawyer Eugene Fidell, and Times public editor Clark Hoyt, for not defending her with enthusiasm. This even though Hoyt went after Whelan with unsubstantiated accusations of "bullying." (Bonus feature: Times Watch is linked to as a "right-wing kitty cat.")

The Slate team insisted Hoyt was unfair to his reporter:

"It took some kind of amazing footwork for Clark Hoyt, the New York Times public editor, to pull off what's turning into an annual ritual dragging the paper's multiple-award-winning Supreme Court correspondent out to the woodshed for appearing to have opinions in her private life or - even worse - sharing a toothpaste tube with those who do.

"This weekend's iteration of Linda isn't THAT bad starts with Hoyt's concession that M. Edward Whelan III - whose online attacks on Greenhouse at National Review Online are tireless - is a bully who is prone to 'increasingly intemperate and personal attacks on Greenhouse.' But then Hoyt gives Whelan - and other bloggers inclined to trashing professional reputations - exactly what they want: He takes the bully seriously, by airing and evaluating Whelan's claim that the Times is guilty of bias because of Greenhouse's reporting on cases involving the Guantanamo detainees. Her sin? She is married to Eugene Fidell, a nationally recognized expert on military law who has filed friend-of-the-court briefs in earlier stages of these cases, and similar ones before the court. In Whelan's hands, this fact-which Greenhouse told her bureau chief - becomes the latest addition to a lengthy dossier about Greenhouse's unfitness to report Supreme Court news."

Ed Whelan responded to Slate's writers, calling the piece

"...a hilariously defective defense of Linda Greenhouse's reporting on prominent national-security cases in which her husband Eugene Fidell, an outspoken opponent of Bush-administration policies, has participated....Bazelon and Lithwick claim that I am 'unable to point to any actual bias' in Greenhouse's reporting on the cases in which her husband has participated. That is not true (see Part 1 of my series, where I quote a devastating critique of Greenhouse's account of the Hamdan decision). Nor is it meaningful: The very point of conflict-of-interest rules is to identify those situations in which partiality should be conclusively presumed , and situations involving spouses are routinely and understandably recognized to be leading instances."

Also at National Review Online, Ramesh Ponnuru cracked that Hoyt was more of a "corporate spokesman" than public editor and pondered:

"Why do Bazelon and Lithwick imagine that conservatives pick on Greenhouse? She is, on their telling, a terrific and unbiased reporter. (When she called Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas 'the Court's far right,' for example, that was just straight news reporting.) Perhaps, in their view, that is what conservatives dislike about her: They want someone to slant the news their way. But if that were the case, wouldn't there be liberals who attacked her for not being left enough? Yet somehow that almost never happens: Liberals seem happy enough with her work. Is their theory that conservatives are just less fair-minded and more paranoid than liberals? That's quite a defense: We're not biased against you; you're just lunatics."