In an unusual move for a Sunday talk show pundit, this week Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel publicly replied to criticism of inaccurate statements he made about the prosecutor purge on Sunday’s Chris Mathews Show. (Riveting YouTube clip here.) Stengel had told Mathews he was “so uninterested” in Democratic efforts to make Karl Rove testify regarding the prosecutor scandal because doing so would be politically “bad” for Democrats, since such investigations are “not what voters want to see.” In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports congressional investigations into the Bush Administration’s conduct, according to nonpartisan polling, as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reported in several thorough essays this week. After prodding by Greenwald, other bloggers, Time readers and Time blogger Ana Marie Cox, Stengel replied in a strange email posted on Time’s blog, most of which is below:
… I realize that I’ve been caught out speaking as a citizen rather than as editor of Time. Lord knows, the Democrats going after Karl Rove is “interesting” in an objective way for Time and for journalists in general. It’s hard to overstate Rove’s role in this administration and it would certainly create yards of headlines and good copy if the Democrats manage to get some traction. But as a citizen, I think it’s unfortunate and perhaps short-sighted for Democrats to be perceived as focusing on the past rather than the future. If people see the Democrats as obsessively concerned with settling scores, that’s not good for the Democrats or the country… (emphasis added)
There are two deeply disturbing problems with this response. The first problem, as Greenwald and others have noted, is that Stengel refuses to address his own error. Even when writing in response to factual criticism, he does not acknowledge the overwhelming public data undermining his assertion, let alone correct himself. (If Time had published the same claim, a correction would be in order.) It is disturbing to see a journalist, especially the managing editor of one of the leading news magazines in the country, so resistant to factual correction.