Reporter Michael Cooper was on the paper's tea party "extremist" beat Friday, reporting from Ivy, Va., where police are investigating sabotage at the home of a brother of a Democratic congressman who voted for the health care bill: "Accusations Fly Between Parties Over Threats And Vandalism."
To stir the pot, the story included a helpful photo (supplied by Democrats) of a brick thrown through the window of the Monroe County Democratic Committee in Rochester, N.Y. with a message attached by rubber band that read: "Exremism [sic] in Defense of Liberty Is no Vice."
The accompanying Times photo caption had this helpful hint of Republican perfidy: "The note (with a misspelling) repeats a saying by Cicero, and more recently, Senator Barry Goldwater." Goldwater, of course, ran for president as a Republican in 1964.
As Times Watch wrote yesterday, the Times turned a blind eye (according to Nexis) to multiple incidents of vandalism of Republican campaign offices during 2004.
Cooper's piece is not quite as partisan as reporter Carl Hulse's jeremiad against Republicans Thursday, but his reporting still played into the political hands of the Democrats, smearing Tea Party protesters with the extreme actions of a few people.
The authorities here confirmed Thursday that a gas line had been deliberately cut at the home of a brother of a Democratic congressman who voted for the health care bill, making it potentially the most dangerous of many acts of violence and threats against supporters of the bill in the last week.
The house had been mistakenly listed on the blog of a Tea Party activist as the home of the congressman, Tom Perriello, a first-term Democrat representing southern Virginia. But the damage that took place on Tuesday was no blunder, the authorities said.
"We do now believe that it was a deliberate act of vandalism and that the supply hose was intentionally cut," said Lee Catlin, a spokeswoman for Albemarle County, where fire marshals have been investigating the incident along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Our investigators do believe that the leaking gas could have posed a danger if there had been an ignition source."
The incident, along with several other acts of vandalism and threats to at least 10 Democratic lawmakers around the country, on Thursday set off heated accusations of incitement on Thursday between the two parties in Washington. While the New York City police investigated a white powder that was sent to the office of Representative Anthony Weiner, along with a threatening letter that the police said referred to the health care bill, Democrats accused Republicans of using heated rhetoric that encouraged extremists. Republicans in turn accused Democrats of politicizing the issue.
At the same time, the vandalism threatened to be a public relations disaster for the fledgling Tea Party movement, which has tried to argue that it is, in the words of Dick Armey, the chairman of the umbrella group FreedomWorks, "more well-mannered" than protesters on the left.
Leaders of the movement tried to contain the damage on Thursday, denouncing the violence and distancing themselves from those behind the acts. Some suggested that outsiders were responsible. In Colorado, where Representative Betsy Markey was among the Democrats reporting threats, Lesley Hollywood, the director of the Northern Colorado Tea Party, said, "Although many are frustrated by the passage of such controversial legislation, threats are absolutely not acceptable in any form, to any lawmaker, of any party."
The threats and property damage, which have led to stepped-up security for some members of Congress, have been widespread around the country.
For the second day, the Times found something objectionable in a political metaphor when it was employed by Sarah Palin:
Some Democrats accused the Republicans of stoking anger on the right with their fierce language during the health care debate. After a brick was thrown into Representative Louise M. Slaughter's Congressional office in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and a telephone message mentioning snipers was left on an answering machine at her campaign office, she issued a statement accusing Republicans of "fanning the flames with coded rhetoric."
Ms. Slaughter referred, among other things, to a Twitter message in which Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, urged her followers, "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!"
Finally, in the 17th paragraph (out of 22), there's some push-back against the Democratic narrative, which is where Cooper buried two counterexamples of alleged attacks on Republicans. Here's one:
Representative Jean Schmidt, Republican of Ohio, released a profanity-laced voicemail message left in her Ohio office in which the caller accused Republicans of racism for blocking the health care measure, said he wished Ms. Schmidt had broken her back in a car accident and said he would have shot anyone who spit on him during weekend protests at the Capitol