- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Conservative media watchdogs are criticizing the coverage of Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s remarks likening the interrogations at Guantanamo to the tactics employed by Nazis, saying most outlets got to the story late and gave it light coverage.

That stands in stark contrast to the fate that befell Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who lost his job as majority leader after days of front-page and lead-the-newscast stories about his remarks at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party that many interpreted as racist.

“Most of the major broadcast networks didn’t report on the original comments by Durbin,” said Roger Aronoff, a media analyst for Accuracy in Media. “I don’t recall exactly when they began on Trent Lott, but I know that when they did, it was a hurricane of outrage that was expressed.”

Mr. Durbin said last week on the Senate floor that an FBI memo about the treatment of detainees at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reminded him of what had “been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.”

Mr. Lott told those gathered at a December 2002 birthday party for the South Carolina Republican that if the then-segregationist Mr. Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

Steve Rendall, a senior analyst for the liberal Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said the lower amount of coverage for Mr. Durbin’s statement is justified.

“What you are positing here is that all things that need to be apologized for is of equal weight,” Mr. Rendall said. “That is not the case.

“Trent Lott gave a tacit endorsement to a campaign whose slogan was ‘Segregation Forever,’” he said. “It seems to me that Lott’s transgression was much greater than that of Durbin’s.”

According to an analysis by the conservative Media Research Center, CBS News has not run a single story about Mr. Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor June 14, even the morning after his tearful apology Tuesday.

ABC ran its first story Tuesday night, and NBC ran two stories, the first one regarding the White House’s reaction to Mr. Durbin’s comments two days after they were delivered and one after Tuesday’s apology.

Both Mr. Lott and Mr. Durbin generated firestorms of criticism from both the opposing political party and outside groups who took offense. But the New York Times ran just two stories about the Durbin furor — one a 180-word brief from the Associated Press and one with a staff byline — and The Washington Post published three.

In the eight days from when Mr. Lott’s comments began to elicit outrage, the New York Times published five stories, including front-page stories three consecutive days. The Washington Post also published six stories, including two on the front page.

“This is the usual double-standard that is in existence for liberals and conservatives on matters like this,” Mr. Aronoff said. “It’s been like this for some time.”

The story is now dead, even as far as those who took offense are concerned. Mr. Durbin’s apology has been accepted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Anti-Defamation League, and Republican senators who expressed outrage that stretched on for days.

“It seems to me the book’s closed,” said Sen. John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who scolded Mr. Durbin on the floor of the Senate last week.

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