By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

White House wages war on whistleblowers

The weekend’s must-read is this New York Times front-pager by Scott Shane on the Obama administration’s prosecution of a government whistleblower. It crystalizes the growing sense that President Obama’s commitment to open government is merely rhetorical.

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Last call for Clark Hoyt


Globe acknowledges bias in Brandeis report


  1. Neil Sagan

    Thank god we can still criticize outrageous policies pursued by the US government. We’d truly be a free country if we could criticize the policies pursued by the state of Israel without potentially losing our job for expressing them.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: At the risk of sparking a round of “here we go again,” what was Helen Thomas’ job? Can you define it? What was Hearst paying her to do? What were they getting out of it?

  2. Neil Sagan

    Are you suggesting that there are jobs in print media so insignificant that a person, a writer, can reasonably be deprived of them for criticizing Israel? Arguing that the nature of Thomas’ engagement with Hearst is relevant to her ouster (and is a mitigating circumstance) is a red herring, and you SHOULD know that. Whether she wrote one or two columns a year is not the issue. That merely diminishes the direct effect of losing her as a writer.

    The indirect effect is what I’m concerned about – the effect that the speech of any journalist (or citizen for that matter) can be chilled for expressing an unfavorable opinion about Israel; chilled by making it a reasonable cause for termination.

    Ari Fleischer went on TV to call for Helen Thomas’ ouster. He claimed what she said was “horrific”, that it amounted to “religious cleaning” (as in “ethnic cleansing” which means rape and murder), said she was antisemtic, and said Hearst should fire her. What he advocated won the day. She, despite her apology, was forced to resign.

    What you say about Israel can get you fired.

    That’s troubling enough in a country that values open debate about ideas on their merit! and all the more troubling because Helen Thomas’ career was in journalism.

    But academics and media critics like Dan Kennedy are not silent, they are in favor of Helen Thomas’ ouster. Shocking really.

    Pastor Martin Niemöller “… and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a ….”

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: What Helen Thomas did to earn a paycheck matters when assessing why Hearst fired her. I think someone who was productive would have gotten off with an apology and a suspension. Note that I’m not suggesting she should have been more productive — she is 89, after all. She had the perfect opportunity to retire when she was a mere child of 79, when Moon took over UPI.

  3. Why vote Democrat and wonder if maybe you’re getting screwed…vote Republican and know for sure! 🙂

  4. Neil Sagan

    Helen Thomas was forced to resign becuause of what she said about Israel.

    While you are right that the standard for termination would be different for a different person, based on office politixs or merit, Helen Thomas was forced to resign becuase of what she said about Israel.

    There is no two ways around that and if you continue to premise your conclusion on ways around rhat, you continue to fail to confront the major factor in her ouster.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: Yes, I agree. Thomas was forced to resign because of her hateful speech about Israel. What we can’t know is if Hearst might have handled the situation differently if she had brought more value to the company.

  5. BP Myers

    @Neil Sagan says: She, despite her apology, was forced to resign.


  6. BP Myers

    Don’t know why anyone is assuming she was “forced to resign.”

    Setting aside that there’s no such thing, isn’t it possible she chose to do the right thing?

  7. Neil Sagan

    As a point of comparison, let’s look at the ramifications of hate speech toward homosexuals in the US by conservative christian leaders (as opposed to what is called hate speech by Zionist Ari Fleischer (Who hired him by the way?)) and the ramifications of speaking such words.

    HAGEE: All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are — were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment. And I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.

    Let that be a lesson to all god-fearing Americans: If you tolerate the presence of gay people in your communities god will punish you and your community with devastating storms that destroy property and life, and all the more so if they (the gay people) are having sex or having sex in public. Hagee’s words were tantamount to a call for ‘gays out of our communities in America’ lest we provoke the wrath of the creator.

    Were was Ari Fleischer when Hagee called for “sexual-orientation” cleansing? Were was anyone in demanding Hagee resign his ministry?

    The comparison of what the public debate will tolerate and from whom is striking, don’t you think?

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