The New York Times showed admirable restraint in reporting Mitt Romney’s inartful and possibly revealing comment about the poor, on page 17 of Thursday’s paper.
But by the time a reader had finished with the front section, that restraint had been buried in editorial overkill. The lead editorial focused on the comment – Romney said he was “not concerned about the very poor” because they had a safety net – as an example of the “darkening tone” of the Republican campaign.
Another example of the darkening tone, according to the editorial, was Romney’s criticism of President Obama’s decision to require Catholic hospitals to pay for health plans that cover birth control for employees. Romney had said the Obama rule forced “religious organizations to violate their conscience.” To the Times, that was a “cheap shot.” That seems a harsh judgment considering that the issue is a difficult one pitting religious freedom against gender discrimination. It also fails to recognize that the Obama administration’s rule is quite possibly a violation of the First Amendment.
One page further on, Gail Collins, the op-ed columnist and former Times’ editorial editor, comes back yet again to the Romney quote about the poor. Helpfully, she provides a column-long deconstruction of Romney’s words, ridiculing every inflection.
Of course, the Times’ editorial and the Collins’ column are opinion pieces. But who could close the A section of the Times on Thursday with any doubt about what the newspaper, as an institution, thinks of Mitt Romney. It is difficult to construct a journalistic argument to support the importance that the Times attached to this campaign flub.