Hockey breaks out on the Times op-ed page!


Maureen Dowd does it again: What’s the old joke? We were at a boxing match and a hockey game broke out?

Yesterday morning, we were conducting our latest vigil concerning Maureen Dowd. In 1992, Katherine Boo warned the press corps about the journalism she derided as “Creeping Dowdism.”

By now, the spawn of that Dowdism has crept all over the land. But in the years since Boo issued her warning, only one career journalist has told the truth about Dowd.

That was Times public editor Clark Hoyt, who savaged Dowd for her horrible conduct in June 2008. Chastened, Dowd dropped the inanity for a while.

Before long, the Dowdism came roaring back. Yesterday morning, it was noticed by other journalists in what is now a widely discussed and hopelessly bungled column.

We were conducting our lonely vigil and a War Against Dowd broke out! We saw it first in this post by Kevin Drum, who correctly said this:

“Maureen Dowd has been an embarrassment for a long time.”

Yesterday’s uproar concerned the latest instance in which Dowd invented a quote. In the course of doing so, she did what she has done for decades—she generated a personality-centered hissing match in which an election campaign has been transformed into a battle about trumped-up personality piddle.

This is precisely what Boo warned about in 1992. But Dowd just continued to play her games, and the press corps happily followed.

What can you say about a press corps which tolerates a gong show like Dowd? The only thing you can say is this:

Quite plainly, it isn’t a press corps!

That said, let’s make a point about yesterday’s column which we haven’t seen made.

In yesterday’s column, Dowd described a conversation with mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio at the Good Times coffee shop in Greenwich Village. Except, as things turned out, Dowd had actually been in a place called the Good Stuff Diner.

Journalists make mistakes!

Dowd started out with the stupid stuff concerning the Red Sox and “voting your vagina.” In paragraph 6, she finally started describing her conversation with the candidate.

Here’s how the hard-copy column appeared. What do you notice here?
DOWD (8/21/13): At the Good Times coffee shop in Greenwich Village on Monday, de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, sat down to talk, pleased that they were no longer “laboring in the vineyard,” as the candidate dryly put it.

Asked why Quinn was not rallying women, McCray, a mother of two, replied: “She’s not accessible. She’s not the kind of person that I feel that I can go up and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.”
As it turned out, that isn’t what McCray actually said; Dowd had greatly rearranged her actual statement. Nor had McCray not made that statement in the Good Times coffee shop.

Put all that to the side! Isn’t something a little bit strange when a column starts this way—not by quoting the candidate, but by quoting his spouse?

Once again, let’s be precise. Dowd wasn’t “quoting” anyone there; that isn’t what McCray really said. In our view, de Blasio may have been unwise to have McCray at the coffee shop, diner or swim club at all. But that’s a whole different question.

Reporting her chat with the new front-runner, Dowd started off with the candidate’s wife! And lord god of hosts, did she ever start off with the wife! In our hard-copy paper, this is the way the bungled, presumably dishonest column continued:
DOWD (continuing directly): Last spring, McCray did an interview with Essence magazine about her feelings about being a black lesbian who fell in love with a white heterosexual, back in 1991, when she worked for the New York Commission on Human Rights and wore African clothing and a nose ring and he was an aide to then-Mayor David Dinkins. With her husband, she was also interviewed by the press in December and was asked if she was no longer a lesbian, and she answered ambiguously: “Sexuality is a fluid thing, and it’s personal. I don’t even understand the question, quite frankly.”

But a lot has happened since then in this campaign season of interesting sexual proclivities and possible firsts. Besides the woman who wants to be the first first lady who used to be a lesbian, there is also Kim Catullo, the wife of Quinn, who would be the first first lady who is a married lesbian.

Then there is the perverse Carlos Danger who wants to be the first mayor who plastered pictures of his privates online.
By now, we were well past the halfway point and the candidate hadn’t been heard from! Quite literally, Dowd got the nose ring into the wife’s nose before wasting time with the hopeful!

She also munched on weiner a bit. Attention must be paid!

Dowd’s quotation of McCray was, simply put, a phony. It doesn’t come close to being a “quote.” That simply isn’t what McCray said, although some of the same words are in there.

In reinventing what McCray said, Dowd made her comments more juicy. This touched off a pleasing food fight between Quinn and de Blasio.

Plainly, yesterday’s misquotation was deliberate. Only a fool could believe Dowd’s absurd explanation/excuse.

Maureen Dowd wanted to start a food fight. With great speed, she succeeded.

That said, let’s put the misquotation aside and consider Dowd’s subject matter. She wanted to show you McCray’s black skin. She wanted to mention those African clothes. “She’s a black lesbian,” Dowd wanted to say. The candidate’s wife is a black lesbian who says ambiguous things about sex!

First the Red Sox, then the vagina. Then, she put the bone in the nose—and yes, that’s precisely what she did. Meanwhile, go ahead—see if the candidate says a single freaking thing at any point in this column! Of course, when Dowd interviewed Candidate Quinn, she built her column around the color of Quinn’s toenail polish (teal).

This is the world of Maureen Dowd, the most influential print “journalist” of the past thirty years.

Dowd has constantly made up quotes. Her “moral and intellectual paralysis” is the much larger problem:

Her horrible throwback gender values. The misogyny for which Hoyt soundly attacked her. Her perpetual flight from issues of substance. Her focus on toenail polish, rings through the nose, surrogate siblings and bald spots.

Good God! Her horrible sliming of Howard Dean’s wife, whose wardrobe was totally wrong!

This big pile of crap will spread, Boo warned. By now, the kudzu has crept through the land. But our journalists only notice the problem when Dowd commits one of her flat misquotations! This really is what your “press corps” is like as dowdism covers the land.

Tomorrow: Who is Amy Chozick?

The children will be quiet: To our ear, Dowd's portrait of McCray has a plain racial feel. But don't worry! There is one place you won't hear such an outrageous idea!

The children on The One True Channel will not discuss what Dowd did. They find their racism in safer places. They shriek about Klan-like rodeo clowns, or about the occasional tow truck driver.

Dowd is a very powerful player. The kids will be seen but not heard.

They are terrible corporate children. They're making our tribe very dumb.


  1. "Dowd just continued to play her games, and the press corps happily followed." - b. somerby

    to the extent dowd's often superficial style *seems* to be copied by others, id suggest theres likely some larger cultural influence which is effecting the other journalists and dowd alike, but which is independent of dowd herself.

    but to the extent that there are real copiers of dowds style, that is on the them, not dowd.





    2. So lewis, carrying your logic a step further, Dowd is also an innocent victim of these larger cultural forces too. And if she makes shit up, it is because that is what our culture demands of her and not her fault.

      "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

      I think Dowd has adopted a pose in which all of the mayoral candidates are rodeo clowns and she is above caring about it all because the world exists for her amusement and nothing mere humans do affects her personally (being rich and ever so pretty), so things like campaigns are either amusingly absurd or tres boring. Because that is so New York. As Somerby says: empty-souled.

  2. * “What she [Quinn] did giving Bloomberg a third term in a back-room deal was morally and politically unacceptable,” de Blasio said.

    * De Blasio, in contrast to Quinn, has a consistent and strong, if hard left, message: If you didn’t like the last 12 years of New York as a luxury product, elect me.

    * De Blasio rebuts that Bloomberg should not have “doubled down on stop-and-frisk and become a fearmonger.”

    While TDH was busy sniffing the sheets, it overlooked the above points from Dowd's piece. The misquote brouhaha is a red herring. Any coffee shop interview quotation is likely to be cleaned and polished for publication. Does anyone think that Dowd's quote substantially changes the meaning of McCray's message?
    I doubt it.

    Drum goes on to say that "Dowd seems to think she's the cleverest writer on the planet..." According to Wikipedia, Drum "is credited with pioneering the trend of 'Friday catblogging.'"

    1. Three sentences about De Blasio somehow refute Somerby's point that the article is about trivialities? Seems to me Dowd did the sheet-sniffing and TDH noticed it. And yes, rearranging words does affect meaning, as does changing the context in which words appear. If you go and read the specifics of the argument elsewhere, you'll see why people are upset about it (for example, the unintended implication that Quinn in inaccessible because she is a Lesbian and not a mom, conveyed by Dowd's rearrangement of the quote).

      And what does catblogging have to do with anything? Is anything Drum says invalidated by pictures of Domino? Drum's blog is one of the wonkier ones with almost daily graphs about economics, discussion of NSA spying, serious political comments and a bunch of things Dowd should be writing about, but isn't.

      You really cannot defend Dowd by criticizing those who point out her flaws. TDH isn't wrong because Kevin Drum posts a picture of his cat. Dowd stinks and it is obvious without Somerby's posts, to anyone who can read.

    2. If you only focus on the catblogging, then Bob's pal Kevin also writes about trivialities. (Mother Jones highlights the catblogging--search Google for Drum Mother Jones.) But we don't see Bob mewling about Drum's need to show and tell about his cats. Tomorrow is Friday, you can see a new catblogging post at Mother Jones!!

      Drum says Dowd thinks she's clever--hiss! spit! Bob can read Dowd's mind and knows she deliberately misquoted McCray--to start a food fight! hiss! spit!

      Dowd sat down and interviewed de Blasio and his wife (who are an unusual married couple in a number of demographic respects). Who else is taking de Blasio's campaign seriously? Prior to today's sniping at Dowd, Drum hasn't mentioned the NYC mayor's race--here's why: Drum doesn't care about it--and neither does TDH.

  3. This episode alone by Maureen Dowd should be a suspension or even firing offense. Dowd simply faked a quote and lied about the faking. The obvious intent being to harm a candidate for Mayor.

  4. What? No commentary count for this MoDo column?

    And will this be enough to break Kevin Drum from his centerpiece position in the Silence of the Krugdrumdionne's?

    The Paralyzed want to know?

  5. One additional issue really irks me about Dowd. Whoever censors the comments to her columns does so with a heavy hand. I have submitted many comments which were not obscene and not abusive at least under the usual meaning of the term but which were extremely sarcastic and critical of Dowd's long-running vendetta against the Clintons, none of which have ever been published. Comments congratulating "Maureen" on another insightful column however are always published. At least there are always many more of that kind of comment than her columns could ever warrant. This is another little perk of being a member of the corporate media tribe.

    1. Why not just write a reasoned criticism and not try to be snide? Criticisms are posted all the time, but they arenot sneering since there is no need for that.

    2. I said sarcastic, not snide. Are the comments to a snide Dowd column supposed to be censored like it's Wimbledon or NPR?

  6. The "quote" is not so much fake and it is assembled, cut and paste, cut and paste. I imagine it happens in most every story we read. What do you expect in a newspaper, court transcripts?

    So she should have paraphrased. It's been said by experts in the field that, if anything, reporters rely too heavily on "quotes," as if every source was some sort of Oscar Wilde or Francois de Rochefoucauld.

    McCray's fuller quote could just as easily have been misinterpreted as Dowd's shorter version (assuming that that it was). Every day people written about in newspapers scream that their true meaning was not taken, they were misquoted, they were taken out of context (everyone's favorite), or any and all of the above. This is especially true of those who say something they regret to see in print and decide to blame the reporter.

    In picking a fight between two lesbians, Dowd lurched into p.c. territory and this time was hoisted on her own petard. The pack smelled the blood they've been waiting for and went after her en masse.

    In another story, and I'm sure today's paper is full of them, that kind of quote assembly wouldn't be considered worthy of notice. Standard Operating Procedure, Jack Germond might have said.

    "I blew it," Maureen Dowd did say. At least, that's what I read in the papers.

    1. Lying is lying, and when a quote is faked by a journalist that is simply lying. But you know that.

    2. reminds me of a quote by a press secretary, earl bush, about the famouisly inarticulate late mayor j daley to the assembled chicago media:

      "Don't write what he says, write what he means!"

    3. She gets paid the big bucks because she is supposed to know better than to do this.

    4. Jeeves, you must be a journalist. You actually blame the misquoted.

  7. It's unfortunate that the NY Times gives column space to Dowd (aren't there any potential columnists with real information or valid opinions?), but Bob does not back up his claim that she is 'the most influential print “journalist” of the past thirty years' or that she is 'is a very powerful player'. He should give some kind of citation index for this, comparing with other columnists. Other "journalists" have done similar things, but do we know that Dowd was the prime mover in all this? Dowd's value to the Times is probably as entertainment, not opinion forming (maybe she should be in a separate category as a humor columnist).

    We do know that Bob is very irritated by Dowd.

  8. Maureen Dowd is widely read and discussed and imitated by other columnists. She has access at any time to any talk show she wishes to be part of. She writes for the NYTimes Book Review when she wishes. This is a very, very influential person.

  9. I try not to read her but I do encounter her elsewhere. I honestly don't get the appeal. I thought the Quinn column was horribly dishonest; Dowd is obviously supporting Quinn. This one was far worse.
    I don't know why she still has that job.
    They're all horrible, though. I think it's downright weird how three of them came out for the Common Core over two days. I don't know what I think about the Common Core yet, but I do know no one on the NYTimes editorial page has a clue what it is, really, or why they're endorsing it.
    I'm so, so sick of the lazy know-it-alls. I realize it's an opinion page, but is there ever a time where any one of them says "I'll just skip weighing in on this thing I know nothing about"?

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