I thought it was distasteful enough that Chris Wallace asked Juan Williams to have to explain why Ted Kennedy wasn't given the "Jesse Helms" treatment
August 31, 2009

I thought it was distasteful enough that Chris Wallace asked Juan Williams to have to explain why Ted Kennedy wasn't given the "Jesse Helms" treatment by the New York Times in their obituaries of the two men, but it also turns out that he was showing NewsBusters a little love as well. I'm glad Media Matters reads NewsBusters, so I don't have to.

Also, I'm sure I won't be the only one that thinks Chris Wallace or anyone at Fox complaining about "media coverage" is laughable on its face.

Wallace: I also want to talk about the "media" coverage of Ted Kennedy's death this week. Not only the amount of it, which was extraordinary, but also the tone of it, and I want to put up the first paragraph of The New York Times obituary on Ted Kennedy's death. This is the first paragraph this week.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night.

Now, here's the first paragraph of the Times' story on the passing of Jesse Helms last year.

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator whose courtly manner and mossy drawl barely masked a hard-edged conservatism that opposed civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday.

Bill Sammon, I'm sure some people will be offended that I'm even making the comparison between these two men, but that is a frightening difference.

Sammon: It is and there are two ways to rectify that double standard. One would have been for the New York Times to find something nice to say about Jesse Helms substantively, other than this mossy drawl. The other, if you're going to go the, and I think that's the preferable way to do it, because you want to, when someone dies, you want to find something nice to say.

The other way if they wanted to be fair would, they would have had to put something in Ted Kennedy's about Chappaquiddick, about his demagoguery Robert Bork, the, you know, lunch-counter America, the back alley abortions, all those kind of things, but they didn't, so either way you do it it's unfair, and that was a striking example.

Wallace: Juan, do you think that there's a striking difference in the way those two men were sent off?

Williams: Well, I think you should be nice to people at the time of their death in general, no matter what their sins, but in fact I think it was good journalism. I think in fact that if you look at the public impact that Jesse Helms had on the country, it was to stand in opposition to civil rights and all the gay rights and all this. If you look at the public impact of Ted Kennedy...

Wallace: But wasn't he for something?

Williams: Yeah! He was for stopping those things and that's what the lead said. I don't have any problem with that and in fact Chappaquiddick has been mentioned prominently throughout this whole period.

Sammon: Not in that lead.

Williams: Not in the lead but in the story. It's not like anybody's hiding Ted Kennedy's flaws. We know them.

Of course, par for the course, it's always alright to politicize a eulogy if you're a Republican. From our own Jon Perr-- Jesse Helms and the Partisan Eulogies of George W. Bush:

Eulogies often tell us more about the living than the deceased. With his glowing words Friday about the late Jesse Helms, George W. Bush offered a case in point. Lauding the legendary North Carolina segregationist just as he did Helms' fellow traveler Strom Thurmond only five years earlier, Bush boosted his Republican allies even in death. But as a quick comparison to his meager 2002 statement about Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone shows, President Bush is the master of the partisan eulogy.

To be sure, no one should expect - much less want - the President to excoriate the racist homophobe Helms on the day of his death. But in proclaiming of the 86 year-old Helms that "it is fitting that this great patriot left us on the Fourth of July," Bush erased the legacy of a man history will associate more with the Stars and Bars than the Stars and Stripes. The man who campaigned on the race-baiting "hands ad" in 1990 now, Bush prays, "finds comfort in the arms of the loving God he strove to serve."

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