Sheldon Adelson, New York Times, free speechThe New York Times’ editorial writers — who reflect the opinions of the newspaper’s publisher and principle owner, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who hires and fires them — have their knickers in a knot over Sheldon Adelson.
By: Clifford May, The Dickinson Press
The New York Times’ editorial writers — who reflect the opinions of the newspaper’s publisher and principle owner, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., who hires and fires them — have their knickers in a knot over Sheldon Adelson. What has the Las Vegas hotel-and-casino tycoon done? The Times asserts he is spending his money “to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs.”
Full disclosure No. 1: I spent some of the best years of my life working for the Times, as a reporter, foreign correspondent and editor. Then, as now, some of the world’s finest journalists were employed by the Gray Lady. Such journalists do not draw conclusions and level charges except on the basis of solid evidence. By contrast, the Times’ editorial writers no longer burden themselves with serious argumentation. They assert, they preach, they allege. I have heard Times reporters grumble about this — though not on the record.
Full disclosure No. 2: I know Adelson and, on occasion, he’s donated funds to the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization I head to support work on national security issues he views as critically important. But not for that reason do I defend his constitutional right to spend as much of his money as he likes to persuade his fellow Americans that his agenda is preferable to that favored by the Times. I would just as vehemently defend the free speech rights of George Soros, also a multibillionaire who spends lavishly to promote his agenda — an agenda with which the Times largely agrees and I do not. The Times has never criticized Soros as it has Adelson. In other words: I am championing a principle without exception; the Times — not so much.
The Times promotes its policy preferences using ink it buys by the barrel. The Times sees that as part of its mission, and that’s correct. But private citizens are entitled to the same free speech rights as the media — unless, of course, one embraces as a serious principle what I’ve always assumed the great journalist A.J. Liebling intended as a quip: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
The Times mentions only one substantive issue motivating Adelson: He is writing “huge checks,” the Times alleges, because of his “disgust for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, supported by President Obama and most Israelis.” The Times adds that Adelson “considers a Palestinian state a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Why in the world might Adelson think that? Well, there is the fact that Hamas, which rules Gaza, has repeatedly proclaimed there can be “no solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “except through Jihad,” a religious war through which “Islam will obliterate (Israel) just as it obliterated others before it.”
There is the fact that Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah, has banned “all informal meetings between Israelis and Palestinians” because such dialogue promotes “the culture of peace” and is designed to “normalize’ relations between Israelis and Palestinians.” There is the fact that Palestinian Authority official Adli Sadeq has written in the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, that Israelis “fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated (Zionist) enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist. ...”
The Times goes on to charge that Adelson’s “overriding interest is his own wallet.” Think about this: a man well into his seventh decade, worth billions, is concerned mainly that his taxes may go up? The Times neglects to inform readers that Adelson also donates huge amounts for medical research, education and other philanthropic pursuits. If his “overriding interest” were his wallet, would he do that?
The Times concludes by lamenting that we live in a time when “there are no legal or moral limits” preventing Adelson from helping “to elect Republicans who promise to keep his billions intact.” Under the moral and legal regime the Times would prefer, newspaper owners, politicians and government bureaucrats would decide how to spend Adelson’s money — and he would shut the hell up. I leave it for you to ponder whether that agenda would be in line with “the nation’s needs.”
May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.
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