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Times Watch Presents the Quotes of Note for 2006

Presenting the absolute worst quotes of the year from the New York Times, including the much-prized Quote of the Year. Who won?

Times Watch Quotes of Note 2006


The Worst Quotes of the Year from The New York Times



It's unanimous! Times Watch guest judges Stephen Spruiell, who runs National Review Online's Media Blog, and Times critic William McGowan, author of the upcoming book Gray Lady Down, both picked as his worst quote of the year one from New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (The quote also earned Quote of the Year honors from Times Watch's parent organization, the Media Research Center.) Spruiell says it was the "sheer arrogance" of Sulzberger's speech that put the paper's publisher over the top.


Enjoy the quotes.



Left-Wing Love-Fest on 43rd Street


"Our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism." - Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse talking at Harvard, June 9.


"Cecile Richards, the new and instantly embattled president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, would like those retro 'folks' - her word - intent on knocking her organization, and the entire abortion rights movement, off the map to know she takes after her maternal grandmother. That would be the tall, whip-thin woman who, nine-months pregnant and bedridden, took a timeout from home-birthing a future governor of Texas - Ms. Richards's mother, Ann - to wring the neck of the chicken her family was having for dinner. Plucky." - From Robin Finn's March 10 "Public Lives" profile of Richards.


"The defendants called themselves 'grannies' because they are all old enough to be grandmothers, even if some of them are not, and because in their view, grandmothers are a core American value, as patriotic as mom and apple pie. Essentially, Judge Ross had found himself with grandmotherhood on trial in his courtroom....When it was over, the grannies seemed ready to do it again. 'The decision today says the First Amendment protects you to protest peacefully,' Mr. Siegel said, addressing his clients outside the courthouse after the verdict. 'So - go do it!' And the grannies cheered." - From Anemona Hartocollis' profile of 18 left-wing anti-war "grannies" arrested for blocking a military recruitment center in Times Square.


"The portrait [feminist Betty Friedman] painted was chilling. For a typical woman of the 1950's, even a college-educated one, life centered almost exclusively on chores and children. She cooked and baked and bandaged and chauffeured and laundered and sewed. She did the mopping and the marketing and took her husband's gray flannel suit to the cleaners. She was happy to keep his dinner warm till he came wearily home from downtown." - From Margalit Fox's February 6 obituary for left-wing feminist Betty Friedan.


"The warnings of global warming that led former President George Bush to mock Mr. Gore as 'Ozone Man' in 1992 hardly seem far-fetched in these days of melting ice caps and toasty winters. Mr. Gore's tough condemnation of the war in Iraq, once derided by the White House as evidence of Mr. Gore's extremism, seems positively mainstream today." - Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney, May 28.


"Critics also say that Latinos often wind up as cannon fodder on the casualty-prone front lines. African-Americans saw the same thing happen during the 1970's and 1980's, an accusation that still reverberates. Hispanics make up only 4.7 percent of the military's officer corps." - Lizette Alvarez in a story on U.S. Army recruiting of Hispanics, February 9.


"Yesterday's court ruling against gay marriage was more than a legal rebuke, then - it came as a shocking insult to gay rights groups. Leaders said they were stunned by both the rejection and the decision's language, which they saw as expressing more concern for the children of heterosexual couples than for the children of gay couples. They also took exception to the ruling's description of homosexuality as a preference rather than an orientation." - From chief New York political reporter Patrick Healy's July 7 news analysis.



We Can't Bear Conservatives


"All manner of televised talkfests, including 'Today,' welcome [Ann] Coulter's pirate sensibilities back aboard whenever she has something to peddle, in part because seeing hate-speech pop out of a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail dress makes for compelling viewing. Without the total package, Ms. Coulter would be just one more nut living in Mom's basement. You can accuse her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us." - Media reporter turned columnist David Carr, June 12.


"Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. has no tolerance for illegal immigrants, either in his political life or personal life....A bipartisan irritant from a state nowhere near the Mexican border, he has outsize influence on the fate of the country's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants....He is commonly described as 'prickly,' 'cantankerous' and 'unpleasant'....One could dismiss him as something of a cartoon, except that Mr. Sensenbrenner has been a feared and vital character in some defining political dramas, like the Clinton impeachment, the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the current legislative donnybrook over immigration, an issue that he calls his toughest in nearly four decades of public life." - From Mark Leibovich's July 11 profile of Republican Rep. Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.


"They certainly should have done more. And that, in a way, is the most profound ethical transgression, that this, it seems to me, is a part of a larger pattern of the administration's habit of secrecy, of cover-ups. We see other example in Bob Woodward's book. You know, democracy relies on transparency and openness. And to undermine that is really an ethical transgression. It's a profound assault on civic virtue, on democracy itself."


- Randy Cohen, author of the "The Ethicist" column for the Times, ostensibly commenting on the Rep. Mark Foley scandal, on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees," October 2.


"Mr. Cheney's favorability ratings might be in an underground bunker, somewhere beneath the president's (at 20 percent in the most recent New York Times poll). Critics deride him as a Prince of Darkness whose occasional odd episodes - swearing at a United States senator, shooting a friend in a hunting accident and then barely acknowledging it publicly - suggest a striking indifference to how he is perceived. Even admirers who laud his intellect and steadiness rarely mention anything about his electrifying rooms or people. But then there are people like these, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel Manor Conference Center in Topeka." - Mark Leibovich, October 17.


"If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up.If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life." - Former Times Middle East bureau chief Chris Hedges in an October 9 online column for Truthdig, on the aftermath of what he predicted would be an imminent attack by Bush on Iran that could happen "in as little as three weeks."


"As the scion of a politically influential family from Memphis, Mr. Ford was faced with overcoming the suspicions of rural whites skeptical about his race, his background and his city....The first issue came to the fore in a television advertisement featuring a winking, bare-shouldered white woman intoning, 'Harold, call me.' Produced by the Republican National Committee and eventually disavowed by Mr. Corker, the commercial played on Mr. Ford's reputation as a man about town but also spoke to - or so critics charged - age-old white Southern fears of miscegenation....The crowd in the room packed with Corker supporters told its own story: It was almost entirely white." - Adam Nossiter on black Democrat Harold Ford Jr.'s defeat in the Tennessee Senate race, November 8.


"Ad Seen as Playing to Racial Fears." - Online headline to an October 26 story by Robin Toner on RNC ads mocking Harold Ford Jr.


"Fox, by its mere existence, undercuts the argument that the public is starved for 'fair' news, and not just because Fox shills for the Republican Party and panders to the latest of America's periodic religious manias. The key to understanding Fox News is to grasp the anomalous fact that its consumers know its 'news' is made up....Fox Television showed us the future - outright lies and paranoid opinions packaged as news under the oversight of Rupert [Murdoch], a flagrant pirate, and Roger Ailes, an unprincipled Nixon thug who had assumed a journalistic disguise in much the same way that the intergalactic insect in Men in Black shrugged into the borrowed skin of a hapless hillbilly." - Times former Executive Editor Howell Raines, from his new autobiography on fly-fishing, "The One that Got Away."



Bush, Epitome of Evil


"I'm in my mid-40s and who grew up in poor countries like Morocco, you know, they will tell you that when they went to school in the mornings, they used to get milk, and they called it Kennedy milk because it was the Americans that sent them milk. And in 40 years, we have gone from Kennedy milk to the Bush administration rushing bombs to this part of the world. And it just erodes and erodes and erodes America's reputation." - Reporter Neil MacFarquhar on the July 31 edition of Charlie Rose.


"In a climate of national debate in the United States about the overriding of certain civil liberties to fight terrorism, the movie looks back on a worst possible scenario in which such liberties were taken away. It raises an unspoken question: could it happen here?"
- Movie critic Stephen Holden in a review of "Sophie Scholl," February 17.


"Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century - to bring out the best in us. His 'genius' is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country." - Columnist Thomas Friedman, November 3.


"I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values they profess to be promoting abroad." - New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in an email to left-wing investigative reporter Murray Waas, as reported April 26 on mediabistro.com.


"That sort of thing plays a little differently here. First, there is a sense of relief that characters on television are talking about the events openly and irreverently. Then there is the punch of confirmation that much of the rest of the world may indeed despise the United States for what the Bush administration calls the war on terror." - Critic Anita Gates reviewing the BBC America detective series "Cracker: A New Terror," October 30.


"That said, it's still possible that the Republicans will hold on to both houses of Congress. The feeding frenzy over John Kerry's botched joke showed that many people in the news media are still willing to be played like a fiddle. And if you think the timing of the Saddam verdict was coincidental, I've got a terrorist plot against the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you." --Columnist Paul Krugman, November 6.


"As he has in his previous speeches, Mr. Bush said he had made mistakes in Iraq and acknowledged in a more personal way than before the suffering he himself had caused."
- White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller on President Bush's address to the nation, December 19.


"George Clooney in 'Good Night, and Good Luck' made a well-crafted look at a time in American history when anything less than complete fealty to the republic was seen as treason, which sounds familiar to some moviegoers." - From David Carr's Oscar predictions, March 3.


"For amusement's sake, it is possible to read 'Basic Instinct 2' as a metaphor for contemporary American-British political relations (a psychotic Yank lures a decent Brit into a web of deceit and murder), but this is a poor reward for two hours of drift and sludge." - From Manohla Dargis' review of the movie "Basic Instinct 2," March 31.



Always Blame Israel


"Peace is much spoken of here. But at times, as I race along the narrow moral precipice, running between a military checkpoint and a suicide bombing, I think of the old Russian proverb: 'We shall struggle for peace so hard that not a tree will be left standing.'" -Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger, writing from Jerusalem for the Times' travel section on April 16.


"Once Again, Gazans Are Displaced by Israeli Occupiers." - Headline over a story by Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger, July 12.



"The pattern has recurred time and again for several years: Palestinians fire rockets from northern Gaza that cause damage or casualties only occasionally, yet prompt a tough Israeli response, like the offensive now under way." - Israel-based reporter Greg Myre, July 9.



"Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements." - Neil MacFarquhar from Damascus on July 28.



"The situation is made all the more complicated by the nature of Hezbollah. It functions as a civil aid group as well as a militia, helping with schools and in hospitals, and in many cases providing essential public services at times in the years of the war when the government was simply not able. It has a savvy media operation, with a spokesman who takes groups of journalists on tours of the devastation in southern Beirut with a truck that blares Hezbollah fighting songs from rows of speakers." - Sabrina Tavernise, July 25.


"The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israel soldier has died from his own army's fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them militants. The cold figures, combined with Israeli air attacks on civilian infrastructure like power plants, electricity transformers, airports, bridges, highways and government buildings, have led to accusations by France and the European Union, echoed by some nongovernmental organizations, that Israel is guilty of 'disproportionate use of force' in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and of 'collective punishment' of the civilian populations." - From a July 19 story by Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger.


"But this town is also the gateway to Hezbollah country, where Hezbollah controls everything from local administration and schools to security. Hezbollah has its footprint everywhere here, from its signature yellow banners to portraits celebrating fallen martyrs." - Hassan Fattah from Tyre, Lebanon on July 18.



"Now there is Sheik Nasrallah, a 46-year-old Lebanese militia chieftain hiding in a bunker, combining the scripted logic of a clergyman with the steely resolve of a general to completely rewrite the rules of the Arab-Israeli land feud....The name instantly reminds everyone of his personal credibility and commitment to the fight." - Neil MacFarquhar on Hezbollah's leader, August 7.



Just Plain Goofy



"Breaking a Travel Stereotype - Women, Minorities and Gays Make Business Trips, Too." - Headline to Michael Luongo's May 23 Business story.


"Sami Antar also blew a large hole in his circle of family and friends, who did not see this coming."- Steven Erlanger on a Palestinian suicide bomber, January 20.


"Careers that last as long and have been as distinguished as [singer Tony] Bennett's have something to tell us about collective cultural experience over decades. It has been said that Sinatra's journey from skinny, starry-eyed 'Frankie,' strewing hearts and flowers, to the imperious, volatile Chairman of the Board roughly parallels an American loss of innocence. As Sinatra entered his noir period in the mid-1950's, his romantic faith gave way to a soul-searching existentialism that yielded the most psychologically complex popular music ever recorded. Following a similar arc, the country grew from a nation of hungry dreamers fleeing the Depression and fighting 'the good war' into an arrogant empire drunk on power and angry at the failure of the American dream to bring utopia."


- Critic-at-large Stephen Holden, August 2.


"Mao's image may also be considered China's first and only global brand. Even though China is a rising economic power, it still does not have a BMW or a Coca-Cola to sell to the rest of the world. But it does have Mao - a kind of George Washington, James Dean and Che Guevara wrapped in one; a historic and pop figure who continues to be hip and fashionable, even when Communism and the Communist Party are not." - From David Barboza's May 28 Week in Review story on mass murderer Mao Tse-Tung.


"Just hours before, Mr. Ahmadinejad took issue with the great Satan, too. But what a difference. Where Mr. Chávez was Khrushchevian, waving around books and stopping just short of shoe-banging, Mr. Ahmadinejad was flowery, almost Socratic in his description of behavior that only the devil would condone." - Helene Cooper, September 21.



"I've been taking my daughter around the block lately, helping her unload Girl Scout cookies on obliging neighbors - and wondering whether we're killing them. The problem is that most of those Girl Scout cookies have trans fatty acids. Those are the worst kind of fat, killing far more Americans than Al Qaeda manages to." - From Nicholas Kristof's May 21 column.



Special Hypocrisy Section


"Greed was on display throughout 2005 as throngs of executives pocketed pay that was even greater than the previous year's. To hear them talk, they deserved the amounts because - are you sitting down? - they enhanced shareholder value. Never mind that many of their companies' stocks ended the year lower than where they began it."
- Economics reporter/columnist Gretchen Morgenson, January 1.


vs.


"A year ago - on Jan. 3, 2005 - Times stock closed at 47.2. On Jan. 3, 2006, the stock was trading at a day's low of 26.16....the real surprise to staffers was, instead, the generous holiday handouts on the paper's 14th floor. In addition to [Times chief executive Janet] Robinson's 74,000 shares of free Class A stock, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. received 30,000 shares, worth a bit less than $800,000, plus stock options worth about $4.1 million." - From the January 16 edition of the New York Observer.



Bias? What Bias?



"I bet you don't believe me, but it's the truth: Reporters are driven by digging out the news, not by pressing partisan opinions." - Managing Editor Richard Berke in an online Q&A, September 12.




"It is a liberal editorial page and a liberal editorial board that reflects core values the paper has had for a long time. But I would challenge anyone, if you look at our news reports on those big issues of the day - tax policy, foreign affairs - to say it is a liberal newspaper. It is objectivity they strive hard to do." - New York Times Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins, in an interview with Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher, July 14.




And now....



The New York Times Quote of the Year


"It wasn't supposed to be this way. You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, whether it's the rights of immigrants to start a new life, or the rights of gays to marry, or the rights of women to choose. You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drove policy and environmentalists have to fight relentlessly for every gain. You weren't. But you are. And for that, I'm sorry."


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- From New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s May 21 commencement address at the State University of New York at New Paltz. C-SPAN has posted streaming Real video of the entire address.