Times Plumps Joe Kennedy for Ted's Seat, Ignores Hugo Chavez Ties

In pondering the glories of the waning Kennedy era in Massachusetts, the Times ignored "populist" Joe Kennedy's ties to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, yet praised Kennedy for providing free heating oil to the poor that was in fact provided by Chavez.

Friday's story from Boston by Abby Goodnough and Sara Rimer, "Massachusetts Waits for a Kennedy to Decide on Race," pondered whether Joe Kennedy, nephew of the late Ted Kennedy and a former congressman, will run to fill his uncle's Massachusetts Senate seat. The Times paid sad tribute to the possible end of the Kennedy era in Massachusetts:

It is hard to imagine this state without a Kennedy in the United States Senate. But it seems that Mr. Kennedy, 56, an entrepreneur and a former congressman who has avoided politics for more than a decade, is the only family member seriously mulling a run for the seat his uncle, Edward M. Kennedy, held for 47 years....Friends said that Joe Kennedy, who is the son of Robert F. Kennedy and who has the trademark Kennedy toothy smile, call to public service and complicated past, is agonizing over whether he truly wants the job, and depending almost exclusively on his wife, Beth, for counsel....The bond between the Kennedys and Massachusetts is stronger than any other between a family and a state in recent history, and Joe Kennedy has already played a role in perpetuating it. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1986 to 1998, occupying the same seat that his Uncle Jack won in 1946.

He was a popular congressman, focusing on low-cost housing and veterans' health care and easily winning re-election. But after his first wife publicly fought his attempt to annul their marriage and his brother Michael was killed in a skiing accident in 1997, Mr. Kennedy decided to leave office.

Besides glossing over Joe Kennedy's personal problems, the Times tried to portray Kennedy as a "populist" and ignored ties to Venezuela's anti-American petro-dictator Hugo Chavez, who has cracked down on the media and tried to rewrite his country's constitution to make him president for life, among other sins.

Since leaving Congress, Joe Kennedy has run the Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit company he founded in 1979 to provide low-cost heating oil to the poor. The corporation has grown to include seven subsidiaries, some of them for-profit; Mr. Kennedy earned a salary of $544,792 in 2007, federal tax filings show.

He has won legions of working-class admirers for his work distributing free oil, a service he promotes in television advertisements urging viewers to call 1-877-JOE-4-OIL. The Citizens Energy Web site features wintertime photos of Mr. Kennedy embracing bundled-up elderly and poor people, and the company's motto - "No one should be left out in the cold" - suggests the kind of populist touch that made Edward Kennedy so popular here.

But where does Citizen Energy get the oil? As Mark Tapscott wrote for the Washington Examiner last week, it's provided by Hugo Chavez as a propaganda tool:

There are at least three reasons why Joe Kennedy should not be a U.S. senator from any state. First, he's not only a defender ofa declared enemy of the U.S., but is also guilty of shamelessly using thatenemy'sresources in an unsuccessful attempt to polishhisown image here in America. I refer, of course, to Kennedy's deal with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez under which the latter gives the formerheating oil which is then sold to "the poor" in America.

The deal makes Kennedy an enabler ofa disgusting PR victoryfor Chavez andassists the tinhorn tyrantin his ongoingstripping of the Venezuelan people of the few remaining shreds of democratic freedom they have left.

Theliberal New Republic recentlyran a story on the same subject:"Chavez's Friend in Massachusetts."

Yet the Times' Goodnough and Rimer ignored the Chavez connection while praising Joe Kennedy's "populism." A nytimes.com search indicates the Times has never run a story mentioning Joe Kennedy's ties to the Venezuelan dictator.