Political bias at the New York Times isn’t exactly late-breaking news. But what about political bias in its science reporting? That shouldn’t surprise anybody either, especially when the subject of a story is global warming or stem-cell research.
Still, the Times has launched an over-the-top political attack on White House science adviser John H. Marburger–a man described Tuesday by Times reporter James Glanz as the focal point of “accusations that the Bush administration has systematically distorted scientific fact.” And who is leveling these charges? According to Glanz, it’s “a wide range of influential scientists.”
Except that the range may not be so wide. Glanz might have described his collection of Bush critics as Democratic scientists.
Take Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist. Glanz quotes him calling Marburger “a prostitute” for working in the Bush administration.
Glanz doesn’t reveal to his readers that Gardner is a partisan Democrat. He has made multiple campaign contributions to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic National Committee also has benefited from his largesse. His in-kind gifts to the Democrats have included public rhetoric. Shortly after 9/11, when Bush’s approval numbers were touching the stratosphere, Gardner was dumping on the commander-in-chief. “Leadership is obviously very important,” he said in an interview, “and very few of us would’ve chosen George Bush at this moment.”
Gardner is certainly entitled to his opinion–but wouldn’t it be appropriate to give him a label that doesn’t sound so neutral as “influential scientist”?
Another one of Marburger’s critics is retired Stanford physicist Wolfgang Panofsky, who hasn’t given money to Democrats at the federal level but nevertheless has been an outspoken critic of Bush’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty two years ago. Panofsky is certainly qualified to comment on technical issues surrounding missile defense, and even to do so as an “influential scientist.” Indeed, he has questioned whether missile defense can be made to work. Fair enough. But has also criticized the Bush administration’s “unilateralist” foreign policy, bemoaned its refusal to join the International Criminal Court, and lamented its resistance to the Kyoto global-warming treaty. Panofsky may not have been a member of Stanford’s political-science department, but the guy is clearly a political scientist–and definitely not a friend of the Bush administration.
A third anti-Bush scientist mentioned in the Times is Lewis Branscomb, a donor to the DNC as well as the presidential campaigns of Bill Bradley, Al Gore, and, most recently, Wesley Clark. Except that’s not how the Times identifies him. Instead, he is portrayed as a Harvard physicist who believes there is “widespread political interference in the technical advisory process across numerous agencies.” Branscomb is then quoted: “I don’t believe there’s any precedent for it, I really don’t, at least since World War II.”
Of course, there’s plenty of precedent for political interference at the New York Times. It’s just a shame that the editors at America’s so-called newspaper of record have let it slip into their science section.