The Times' Experts
February 1, 2001
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An article in the international section of today's New York Times runs under the headline, "Unpersuaded By Verdict, Bush Backs Sanctions." It quotes, as an expert on the issue of sanctions against Libya, "Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, a former State Department official for Near Eastern affairs." The Times might have been wise to disclose to its readers that Mr. Pelletreau, since leaving the State Department, has been earning a living as a Washington lawyer representing, among other clients, at least one businessman with interests in Libya, according to Time magazine. Mr. Pelletreau has also, since leaving government service, functioned as a registered foreign agent paid by Egypt and Tunisia, according to filings with the Department of Justice.
Mr. Pelletreau's relationship with the Swiss-based Arab businessman, Kamel Ghribi, was reported by Time magazine on March 27, 2000. The Forward newspaper, in a September, 10, 1999, dispatch by Seth Gitell, also reported that, according to a memo by an American trade executive, Stephen Hayes, Mr. Pelletreau "suggested to Ghribi that Libya would be better served by staying out of the Kosovo matters. Pelletreau and I both suggested to Ghribi that if Libya did want to be viewed more positively, they should accept Kosovar refugees."
Susan Cohen, the mother of a Pan Am 103 victim, told the Forward in 1999 that she wanted to know why Mr. Pelletreau "is giving advice on how Gadhafi can make himself acceptable."
Now, a year and a half later, the Times is quoting Mr. Pelletreau as an expert on Libya sanctions without any disclosure to readers that he has interests in the matter other than as a former U.S. government official.
Lost in D.C.: An article in the business section of today's New York Times reports on the fact that Bertelsmann has now hired the former head of the antitrust division of the Justice Department, Joel Klein. "They began meeting for breakfast about twice a year at downtown Washington restaurants like the Four Seasons," the New York Times reports. The Four Seasons restaurant is in New York. There is a Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, and one can get breakfast there, but it is in Georgetown, not in "downtown" Washington.
Rattner Watch: The same article contains this quote about Mr. Klein from Steven Rattner, who is described as "an investment banker who knows him": "Joel has developed pretty good insights into the businesses he was regulating and a point of view on them, and I am pretty sure he will offer those up."
The New York Times is in danger of becoming overly reliant on Mr. Rattner. He was quoted at length on Tuesday in a special report in the Times arts section about the capital campaigns of New York cultural institutions. "I got involved in the Met because I moved across the street from it," Mr. Rattner was quoted as saying in that article, identified as "the investment banker and former deputy chairman of Lazard Freres & Company." He also happens to be a former reporter for the Times and, according to published reports, a friend of the publisher. Smartertimes.com isn't saying he shouldn't be quoted in the paper, or that his Times connections must be disclosed to readers, but it is slightly odd to see him quoted twice in three days on stories that the Times could just as easily have quoted someone else in.
Off the Marc: A New York Times op-ed columnist, in his "Essay" this morning, misspells the name of pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich. The Times columnist refers to "Mark" Rich.
Late Again: Another op-ed piece in today's New York Times suggests, "Instead of a Tax Cut, Send Out Dividends." You could have read about a similar idea yesterday in David Broder's column on the Washington Post op-ed page.
'Fiscal Discipline': The lead editorial in today's New York Times twice invokes "fiscal discipline" as an argument against a tax cut. Then the editorial concludes by saying it would be reckless of Congress to approve a tax cut "before Congress begins to address the host of important issues that will require new spending."
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