The new executive editor of the New York Times, Bill Keller, is already making his mark. The August 2 edition of the paper featured two articles that appear to reflect his mindset. Keller is a self-described “collapsed Catholic” who is “well beyond lapsed.” A front-page article attacked actor Mel Gibson, a conservative Catholic, for producing a film about Jesus that the Times hadn’t seen. And the second article, carried on page seven, tried to steer people away from a debate over homosexual marriage by claiming that it is “politically toxic.” In other words, conservatives should let the courts resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the gay-rights lobby.
In some previous columns, Keller himself seemed preoccupied with President Bush’s Christian faith. He wondered in one column if Bush was a religious zealot. “I understand the critics’ discomfort with Mr. Bush’s public piety,” Keller wrote. “It contributes to an image of crusading arrogance abroad, and to a fear of invasive moralism at home.” Keller attacked conservative Republican Senator Rick Santorum as a “catholic Theocrat.” In another column, “The Soul of George W. Bush,” Keller tried to analyze the perceived political and cultural dangers in the Bush brand of conservatism.
Keller has appointed Jill Abramson, a noted feminist, as one of his new managing editors. She and her former colleague at the Wall Street Journal, Jane Mayer, wrote a book attacking conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A Times review of the Mayer-Abramson book declared that the authors “are as liberal as he is conservative.” The book is a feminist classic.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has examined Keller’s piece on the Catholic Church, wondering if some of his criticisms might apply to the Times itself. For example, Keller charged that the pope had “shaped a hierarchy that is intolerant of dissent, unaccountable to its members, secretive in the extreme and willfully clueless about how people live.” Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented that it “Sounds like the [New York Times] newsroom commenting on Keller’s predecessor, Howell Raines.”
Keller had written that the Church, like the Soviet Communist Party, “exists first and foremost to preserve its power.” Donohue said that Keller should consider how Susan E. Tifft, co-author of a book on the Times, had commented that the Sulzberger family, who own the Times, “will do whatever they have to, to protect this jewel, their newspaper.”
Keller had denounced the Catholic Church, saying, “This is, after all, the church that gave us the Crusades and the Inquisition.” Donohue commented that the Times “is the same newspaper that lied about the Communist slaughter of the Ukrainians in the 1930s, ran a grand total of 9 editorials criticizing the Nazis in 1941, 1942 and 1943, and labeled Fidel Castro ‘an agrarian reformer.'” That was then, and this is now. But the Times will remain a liberal voice under Bill Keller. And he has made it clear that he will continue the diversity programs that helped produce the Jayson Blair scandal.