New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt, in a column on Sunday, told angry Times readers he agreed that hiring conservative commentator William Kristol to write a weekly column was a "mistake." After just two columns, Hoyt said he had received almost 700 letters, just one of which praised the hiring of Kristol. Hoyt chides some readers for excessive vitriol, but points out that Kristol supported prosecuting The Times because it reported a classified government program that monitors Americans' bank accounts. "This is not a person I would have rewarded with a regular spot in front of arguably the most elite audience in the nation," Hoyt said. (The New York Times, free registration)
What the commentators said
It isn't fair to "condemn a newspaper columnist after publishing just two op-eds," said Steve Benen in The Carpetbagger Report blog. But The Times will "likely regret" its "ridiculous decision" to give Kristol another platform. Not only were his first two columns full of banal "Republican Party talking points," but they misattributed a quote, incorrectly predicted Hillary Clinton's political demise, and regurgitated, "practically word for word," his columns in The Weekly Standard. The error in offering this "sloppy, predictable demagogue" one of "the most prestigious opportunities in American media" will only get more obvious after "another column or two."
"Wielding only the power of the pen," it's hard to see how Kristol is so "intimidating" to liberals, said Scott Johnson in the Power Line blog. But by reminding us that he was right about the Iraq surge, Kristol does give "Times readers good reason to hate him." Besides, he is right about The Times being a "serial offender" when it comes to "destroying" our "invaluable" counterterrorism programs. And his only offense has been pointing out that "The Times is not a law unto itself," which is enough to send the newspaper’s readers "off the deep end."
The "grand mal seizures" Kristol has induced among "nearly every liberal with a blogging account" are silly, said Jack Shafer in Slate. Whether or not you agree with them, "pundits shouldn't lose or win gigs" based on their views or the accuracy of their predictions. What's important is that Kristol "writes interesting copy." And if they can overlook their distaste of this well-connected "political operator," Times readers will be rewarded "with dispatches from the 'alien' world of conservatism."
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