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The Last Word on Geraldo

In tomorrow’s corrections section, the New York Times throws in the towel on its slander of Geraldo Rivera–sort of. If you haven’t followed this controversy, I won’t try recap it, other than by quoting the offending paragraph in the Times story by serial offender Alessandra Stanley:

Some reporters helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around. (Fox’s Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.)

Rivera, outraged, denied that he did any such thing; all those who watched the tape, including the Times’ own Public Editor, agreed. The Times initially refused to recant, but tomorrow’s “Editor’s Note” (they don’t quite call it a correction) says:

The TV Watch column on Sept. 5 discussed broadcast journalists’ undisguised outrage at the failings of Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. It said reporters had helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around, and added, “Fox’s Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.”
The editors understood the “nudge” comment as the television critic’s figurative reference to Mr. Rivera’s flamboyant intervention. Mr. Rivera complained, but after reviewing a tape of his broadcast, The Times declined to publish a correction.
Numerous readers, however – now including Byron Calame, the newspaper’s public editor, who also scrutinized the tape – read the comment as a factual assertion. The Times acknowledges that no nudge was visible on the broadcast.

Silly readers! How could you be so hopelessly literal as to read a declarative sentence in the New York Times as a “factual assertion”?
The same Stanley column also contained a recitation of the false claims made by Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press. No correction of those fabrications yet. Heck, we’ll settle for another “Editor’s Note.”

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