KENNETH L. WOODWARD, The Weekly Standard
On June 23, something very rare appeared in the pages of the New York Times: an admission by a Times columnist that he had made a reporting mistake.
The columnist was David Carr, who acknowledged that he had erred in an earlier piece which implied that the Washington Post had not paid sufficient attention to Eric Cantor’s upset in the Virginia primary.
Whether Carr discovered his mistake by himself or, more likely, someone at the Post called it to his attention, I do not know. What I do know is that the Times would never have published a Letter to the Editor pointing out Carr’s error. That’s because, as a matter of policy, the Times will not publish letters that challenge the facts in any piece written by its own columnists or reporters. I learned this the simple way: by writing such a letter myself.
On April 24, I wrote a 190-word letter to the Times contesting a very angry column entitled “A Saint He Ain’t” written by Maureen Dowd on the dual canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Dowd’s main beef was that Pope John Paul II did not deserve canonization because, she argued, the clerical sex abuse scandal and its cover-up occurred during his reign, for which she held him accountable. She also criticized the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI, whom she dissed as John Paul’s “Rasputin,” for rushing to canonize his “mentor.” In other words, Dowd was saying that here was a case of one conservative pope canonizing—and therefore justifying the papacy of—another.