Exhibit Umpteen in the Wall Street Journal’s attempted death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts of the New York Times:
Seth Lipsky’s Weekend Edition op-ed piece.
It will be hard to find a more overdue newspaper “correction” than that issued last Saturday by the New York Times regarding Gen. John D. Lavelle. The general has been dead since 1979 when, at the age of 62, he died of a heart attack. It could also be said that he died of a broken heart after the New York Times, among others, helped stir a controversy that got him demoted for making unauthorized attacks on North Vietnam.
The Times’ correction comes after President Barack Obama asked the Senate to restore Lavelle’s rank, posthumously, to four stars. That would right a rush to judgment in a controversy in which, nearly 40 years ago, the Times had fretted about runaway military officers ignoring civilian authority. There were, it turns out, no runaway generals—just runaway critics of the war.
Newly declassified archival material confirms that the attacks for which the general was demoted were indeed authorized, just as the general had maintained in the years after his retirement.
The Times correction begins this way: “Because of a cover-up, cowardice and scapegoating in the Nixon White House, editorials on this page in the early 1970s misstated the role of an Air Force general in a series of bombing raids of North Vietnam.”
Lipsky’s piece is worth reading in and of itself – especially for its depiction of Richard Nixon’s loss of nerve and character (he had authorized the bombing raids) in throwing Lavelle under the bus.
But it’s also interesting as the latest salvo of the U.S.S. Rupert Murdoch against the Old Gray Lady.