Charles Krauthammer was a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist, best-selling novelist, and Fox News commentator, and that was in addition to an admirable medical career, graduating from Harvard Medical School after a 14 month break to recover from a swimming accident that left him paralyzed. When he died yesterday at the age of 68, he left a legacy of accomplishments and accolades, a long list of honors earned and friends made during a truly remarkable life.
The Washington Post‘s obituary of Krauthammer decided to highlight something different: his “neoconservative” politics, making that the focus of the very first sentence, and blaming him and his work for “lay[ing] the ideological groundwork” for the Iraq War.
This is the first sentence:
Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died June 21 at 68.
[Hat tip to The Daily Wire‘s Ryan Saavedra, who tweeted about this last night.]
An additional five paragraphs are dedicated to criticizing Krauthammer for being “foremost among pundits who took up [President George W. Bush’s] cause” to support the Iraq invasion, “[d]espite shaky evidence for the claim.”
That last quote isn’t the only dig that indulges in some 20/20 hindsight. Krauthammer believed the war would be a short-term military engagement, and he was wrong, so here are the horrible things that have happened as a result:
The U.S.-led invasion, which Dr. Krauthammer billed at the outset as a “Three Week War,” has dragged on ever since, caused more than 4,000 U.S. deaths and more than 100,000 Iraqi casualties amid a grinding insurgency, and left the United States mired in a failed state with hostile neighbors. No WMDs were found.
The obituary also knocks Krauthammer for occasionally taking “a corrosive tone” about President Barack Obama:
He called President Barack Obama “a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament” but took jabs at his “highly suspect” character, citing his friendships with his “race-baiting” pastor Jeremiah Wright and the “unrepentant terrorist” Bill Ayers.
Well, for those of short memory, Jeremiah Wright was accused of “race-baiting” because of the publicly reported content of his sermons — and it was far from one little soundbite, but repeated controversial comments, in multiple sermons, that were not just race-baiting, but anti-Semitic, and engaging in unhinged conspiracy theories like accusing the government of knowing about the Pearl Harbor attack beforehand.
And the reason Bill Ayers would be called an “unrepentant terrorist” is for the simple reason that he was an active member of the Weather Underground during the turbulent early 1970s, and admits being involved in multiple bombings.
There was also the New York Times interview for Ayers’ memoir about his time as a fugitive — fleeing from the law because he had been involved in bombings, including one at the Pentagon — that starts with this sentence:
”I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. ”I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Sounds pretty unrepentant to me.
It also sounds to me like Krauthammer was correct, not “corrosive” in his descriptions of Wright and Ayers, but I’m not a WaPo obituary writer, so what do I know?
This is far from the first time that WaPo has chosen to highlight a liberal criticism in their coverage of a conservative’s death. The obituary for Thomas Monson, the president of the Mormon church who died at the age of 90 in January, mentioned in the first sentence how Monson had “upheld a long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage, despite the increasing acceptance of gay rights within and beyond the faith.”
The rest of the text predictably devoted more paragraphs to Monson’s opposition to gay marriage than his charitable efforts or success in substantially expanding the church’s missionary program around the globe.
In contrast, WaPo covered Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s 2016 death with this opening:
Fidel Castro, who led a Cuban revolution that made his Caribbean island a potent symbol of the 20th-century ideological and economic divisions, and whose embrace of communism and the former Soviet Union put the world at the risk of nuclear war, died Nov. 25. He was 90.
The obituary then devotes a series of fawning paragraphs calling Castro “a romantic figure in olive-drab fatigues and combat boots, chomping monstrous cigars through a bushy black beard, [who] became a spiritual beacon for the world’s political far left,” a long-reigning leader who “taunted” American Presidents with “almost theatrical relish.”
The New York Times followed this pattern as well, with this as the first sentence of their obituary of Monson:
Thomas Monson, the president of the Mormon church who rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died Tuesday at 90.
And this is how the Times began Castro’s obituary:
Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday.
Fidel Castro, who is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of his own people, and for tens of thousands more who risked their lives to flee his oppressive regime, gets portrayed as a dashing revolutionary fighting for the poor against the corrupt Batista and the imperialist United States. And Krauthammer is the warmonger.
No rational person expects a newspaper obituary to ignore significant controversies in a person’s life. However, the topics that are selected to be highlighted in the headlines and opening paragraphs, and the issues that are covered in more detail and with more column inches, matter.
It’s not fake news, but it sure as heck is biased.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.