The New York Times has always had a difficult time understanding, let alone embracing, Rudolph Giuliani. From his first mayoral race – the losing effort against David Dinkins in 1989 – through his victory four years later and the wildly successful two terms in office that followed, Giuliani was treated by the Times with varying degrees of skepticism, condescension, moral outrage and, on occasion, admiration that might charitably have been described as grudging had it not been delivered with the obligatory qualifiers and negative asides the paper reserves these days for George W. Bush.
The high point in the Times’s relationship with Giuliani came in 1997, when the paper, going against every liberal instinct in its corporate bloodstream, endorsed the mayor against his Democratic challenger. And Ruth Messinger wasn’t just any old challenger: as an ultra-liberal Manhattan woman whose knee jerked to every left-wing nostrum that ever made it to the Upper West Side by way of Amherst, Berkeley or Havana, she satisfied nearly every one of the Times’s criteria for political sainthood. (Had she been black and living with a female life partner to boot, the Times would have endorsed her and made her an honorary Sulzberger.)
But Messinger had the misfortune of being an absolutely atrocious candidate, and the city was, after all, enjoying unprecedented prosperity and an unbelievable drop in virtually every category of violent crime. So the Times opted for common sense over ideology and gave its nod to Giuliani’s reelection – and then, as if to make up for its dereliction, spent the next four years hectoring the mayor and doing its darndest to reignite the racial tinderbox that last had burned during the Dinkins mayoralty.
In an extended spasm of what Manhattan Institute fellow Heather MacDonald described as “liberal decadence at its worst,” the Times, in MacDonald’s words, “envelop[ed] the city in an inescapable web of anti-police” sentiment.
The numbers show that in 1993, David Dinkins’s final year in office, the New York Police Department made 266,313 arrests and killed 23 people. In 1998, by contrast, the year before the Amadou Diallo shooting that sparked furious anti-cop demonstrations and apoplectic New York Times editorials, the NYPD made 403,659 arrests and killed 19 people.
In other words, the police under Giuliani were making considerably more arrests while killing fewer civilians. That made little or no difference, of course, to the city’s cadre of racial hucksters and the craven politicians who serve as their enablers.
“From the day he took office,” MacDonald wrote in the wake of the Diallo furor, “Giuliani threatened the foundations of the liberal worldview – denouncing identity politics, demanding work from welfare recipients and, above all, successfully fighting crime by fighting criminals rather than blathering about crime’s supposed ‘root causes,’ racism and poverty. It was a godsend for his opponents that the four officers who killed Diallo were white, allowing the incident to stand as proof of alleged departmental racism, the ‘dark side’ of Giuliani’s conquest of crime. Now it was payback time.”
In the two months that followed the Diallo killing, the Times, according to MacDonald, “ran a remarkable 3.5 articles a day on the case, climaxing on March 26 – at the height of the Police Plaza protests and when news of the second-degree murder indictment [against the four officers] was leaked – with a whopping nine stories.”
The Times, MacDonald charged, “buffed up Al Sharpton and glorified his protest movement. It covered Diallo’s burial with loving detail and sentimental drama worthy of Princess Di. Most important, the Times created a wholly misleading portrait of a city under siege – not by criminals, but by the police. In so doing, it exacerbated the police-minority tensions it purported merely to describe.”
(Continued Next Week)
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org