Who is Margaret Sullivan: Margaret Sullivan has just taken over as the New York Times’ new public editor.
We'll admit it! We were unfavorably struck by one part of her first column:
SULLIVAN (9/9/12): I see my job largely as one of reporting and writing. After 13 fulfilling years as the editor of The Buffalo News, where I earlier was a reporter and columnist, it’s wonderful to be earning my living as a writer again.Say what? Yes, it seems to be true. According to several published sources, Sullivan became editor of the Buffalo News in September 1999, just as the press corps’ war against Candidate Gore was taking its final form.
In December of that year, the Buffalo News played a key role when the press corps invented the history-changing debacle involving Love Canal.
This disgraceful episode revived a dying theme—AL GORE, LIAR!—and turned the theme to stone. From that point on, the notion that Gore was the world’s biggest liar drove the coverage of that fateful campaign.
Because Love Canal was near Buffalo, the News became a paper of record during this rank episode.
The paper’s performance was a disgrace. Washington Bureau chief Douglas Turner shoveled the shit with reckless abandon. And good God! As the first week of the lunacy neared its end, this editorial appeared:
BUFFALO NEWS EDITORIAL (12/6/99): AL GORE IN FANTASY LANDPresumably, that was the wonderful, witty work of Margaret Sullivan. For the record, it’s hard to miss the way this editorial was cut-and-pasted from RNC chairman Jim Nicholson:
As the first daily newspaper in the United States and the inventor of journalism, The Buffalo News would like to congratulate Vice President Gore for his many contributions to American life.
Never mind that he didn't invent the Internet, serve as the model for "Love Story" or blow the whistle on Love Canal. We're sure that he uses the Internet, saw the movie and hates dioxin.
In Washington, that's close enough to the truth. Such achievements also put Gore well within the ranks of millions of Americans, proving that he is indeed a man of the people.
Of course, some will think that since Gore moved his campaign headquarters to Tennessee—where Love Canal was discovered—a higher standard should be demanded. But we think Gore's record of "firsts" speaks for itself and is the stuff of which legends are made:
First candidate to put his foot in his mouth, by virtue of his "Love Story" claim two years ago.
First candidate to put his other foot in his mouth by virtue of his Internet claim last spring.
And now first candidate to be caught impersonating a woman, claiming credit for exposing the Love Canal debacle that is synonymous with Lois Gibbs.
Of course, all of this would be funny if it weren't so disturbing. Some will see an emerging picture of a major candidate so desperate and reckless as to play fast and loose with the truth. Or just plain so out of it as to actually not know that such blatant fibs are beyond the bounds of accepted hyperbole, even for politicians.
Such traits are hardly evidence of presidential timber.
However, we're confident that Gore's inventive mind is just coming up with a new style of campaigning, claiming credit for all sorts of fantasy achievements to appeal to the Walter Mitty in every voter.
Still, we must admit, we plan to hold all new Gore press releases for 24 hours, just as a precaution. That includes the one, just in, that says the vice president invented chicken wings.
RNC PRESS RELEASE (12/1/99): "Al Gore is simply unbelievable—in the most literal sense of that term," said Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson. “He just keeps doing it—he keeps inflating and embellishing his resume. He keeps reinventing himself. It’s a pattern of phoniness—and it would be funny if it weren't also a little scary."Of course! It would be funny if it weren’t so disturbing! Around the country, various hacks took this dictation straight from the RNC chair.
BUFFALO NEWS EDITORIAL (12/6/99): Of course, all of this would be funny if it weren't so disturbing.
That editorial was a work of pure journalistic porn. “First candidate to be caught impersonating a woman!” Assuming this was Sullivan’s work, she had a bit of Maureen Dowd in her, even way back then.
You can read the full story of this remarkable episode in Chapter 6 of our companion site, How He Got There. It began with a flat misquotation of Gore. The press corps’ “errors” piled up from there.
The episode set the GORE LIAR theme in stone. The notion that Gore was the world’s biggest liar drove the coverage of Campaign 2000 from that time forward.
George Bush ended up in the White House. People are dead all over the world because of what the press corps did. But now, the tale has a happy ending at last:
Yes, people are dead all over the world. But Margaret Sullivan got a great job at our greatest newspaper!
We strongly suggest you read the full story of this episode at our companion site. The episode was an astounding disgrace.
The Buffalo News was right there.