Thanksgiving: a time to give...until the media are satisfied that you have given enough, and in a politically correct way.
That's certainly the view of The New York Times, which unveiled its 18-page "Giving" section last week celebrating "40 Who Committed Half Their Wealth for The Pledge." The lead article highlighted, and rightly so, top philanthropists who have committed to donate $680 billion to charity.
That's an astonishing amount and had the Times simply honored those involved, it would be much to their credit. America is a hugely charitable nation - Warren Buffett estimates we "give away about $300 billion a year." The businessmen and women who support churches, food banks, Toys For Tots and more seldom receive enough credit. Or enough thank yous.
But this was an article in The New York Times, so that means even a piece on charity had an agenda. At its root, lies the political nature of those behind the pledge - Bill and Melinda Gates and Buffett. Both Gates and Buffett are prominent liberals and Buffett, especially, has gone on a pro-tax crusade for the wealthy.
That class warfare theme was enough for the Times to take sides against anyone who criticized the pledge or didn't participate. Or almost anyone, anyhow.
Times writer Stephanie Strom called out one German philanthropist as "perhaps the most prominent wealthy critic of the pledge." Strom, fair to say, left out someone a little closer to home for the Times. Carlos Slim Helu, the world's richest man, says he would "prefer that Bill Gates create a Microsoft or Steve Jobs create an Apple," and that the pledge "won't solve any problems."
You might not know Helu, but the Times certainly does. The company got "a $250 million loan intended to help the newspaper company finance its businesses" from him in early 2009.
Giving the Times money gets you special status. The paper once called Slim, as he is sometimes known, a "robber baron" or even a "thief." That was before he ponied up the cash. Afterward, Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. had a slightly different take. "Carlos, a very shrewd businessman with an appreciation for great brands, showed a deep understanding of the role that news, information and education play in our interconnected global society." He went on to praise Slim and says "how much one person with courage, determination and vision can achieve."
That's what a "donation" to the Times buys even someone the paper can't stand.
But if you don't give in a Times-approved way, then watch out. The "Giving" article complained about "major philanthropists" who influenced "a bitter political campaign season." Cue the standard lefty attack on conservative funders. The Times then went after one pledge signer, Kenneth Langone because he "attended a secretive meeting of billionaires in Aspen, Colo., in June, where participants committed to support political action that promoted conservative causes, like rolling back environmental and health care legislation."
The Times tied that to bashing billionaires Charles and David Koch because they advocate "donations to college and universities could also be used to advance a conservative agenda." That's not good enough for either the Times or its approved liberal donations. "Mr. Buffett said he did not regard donations of the kind the Kochs advocate as philanthropy."
Big shock, "Mr. Langone declined to be interviewed."
Who could blame him? Even donating his money gets him in hot water with the Times - again presumably because he didn't loan them a quarter-billion dollars. Do that and all sins, real or perceived, are forgiven.
Jim McCarthy, a PR representative for Langone, bashed the Times for its blatant attack. "It's bad enough that the Times ignored the actual and publicly posted letters that Giving Pledge donors wrote explaining why they were taking part in the effort. But to then push a hatchet-job angle that the charitable giving is serving some nefarious purpose is a galling distortion."
He's right. Look at the controversial things Langone said in his letter to Buffet. (I included the whole thing since the Times included none of it):
Elaine and I were honored to receive your graceful letter. It conveys a spiritual purpose that has long been close to our hearts and, yes, we will gladly join you in making our own pledge. Much praise to you for making this a national calling. It is inspiring how such a simple idea puts faith into action for the community as a whole.
Our family is thankful for the many blessings we have enjoyed. It is because we live in a special country, where freedom of opportunity is a cherished virtue that we can reach so high in the first place. But nothing makes our society better than when we live up to its most caring ideals of service and selflessness. So it is also with a deep sense of gratitude that we are pleased to be included in this wonderful undertaking."
Ever since the left went on a jihad against the Kochs because they fund the right, conservative billionaires donating to the right have become a prime target for the left. MSNBC has gone after the brothers 35 times in 2010 alone. Anyone connected to them, like Langone, can expect similar loony left treatment.
And folks like Slim can operate safely, knowing the Times hates them, but won't say it. Funny, by investing in the Times, maybe he's already doing his part for charity.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on FaceBook and Twitter as dangainor.
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