One of the highlights of my trip to Israel this past August was the helicopter tour that took us from Herzliya down the separation fence and over to Sderot. My guide on the helicopter tour was Calev Ben-David, who is in the middle of our group in the photograph accompanying “A view from the fence.” Last week Calev provided a view of Maureen Dowd in Israel with an interesting twist. Calev had run into Dowd immediately after reading a column she filed from Jerusalem with a New Hampshire dateline.
Dowd’s post-New Hampshire primary column on Hillary Clinton was published on January 9 and datelined Derry, New Hampshire. The column posed the question “Can Hillary cry her way back to the White House?” It offers Dowd’s patented snark on the Clintons mixed with a little local color from Ms. Hillary’s victory party the night before.
In a Jerusalem Post column, Calev reports:
Last week, I dropped by the press room at the Dan Panorama Hotel, set up to accommodate the White House reporters traveling with US President George W. Bush. An old friend who works in Washington pointed out, among the journalists present, the noted New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, who sat there busily typing away.
I expressed surprise at seeing her here in Jerusalem – especially since just an hour earlier I had read her latest piece on the New Hampshire primary, which described firsthand the scene just the previous night at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, and was datelined Derry, N.H.
I’m not the only one who noticed the discrepancy – within hours, the blogosphere was buzzing about Dowd’s miraculous ability to be in two places at once. The Times sprang to her defense, pointing out she had been in Derry earlier in the week, had used an assistant to provide the color at the Clinton HQ, and brushed off her use of a New Hampshire dateline.
“This is a complete invention, this controversy,” Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told The New York Observer, adding: “Datelines are kind of an anachronism. It’s a little bit of an affectation.”
If that’s the case, though, why use a dateline at all, especially on a column where it’s not really necessary? The problem with Dowd’s piece was not that she wrote it in Jerusalem, but that it was deliberately written and presented in a manner to deceive the reader into believing that she had been present in New Hampshire on primary night.
If I get this right, Rosenthal’s indignant defense of Dowd’s column is that the dateline was fake but accurate thanks to the contribution of an uncredited assistant. But doesn’t that defense call the byline into question? The assistant’s contribution merits recognition of some kind. Or would that blow Dowd’s affectation?
Calev quotes the part of Rosenthal’s commentary that’s fit for a general audience. The New York Observer’s account of these events includes the undiluted Rosenthal, rated R (language), and links to Greg Sargent, who originally flagged the issue, as well as others who have commented on it.
UPDATE: Mark Steyn adds a hilarious addendum to this post under the apt Dateline: Maureen Dowd’s boudoir.