Spotlight on double standards at the Boston Globe

Francis Carr Begbie


Boston GlobeWhen sex scandals involving Woody Allan, Roman Polanski and various Hollywood child stars bubbled to the surface again recently it was almost a certainty that they would quickly die away with nothing resolved.  Outside the briefest news reports there seems to be a total lack of will for investigating these subjects thoroughly.

But there are some stories of institutional child abuse for which there seems no lack of enthusiasm, such as by Catholic priests.  And you don’t have to be Catholic to wonder why this is.

The announcement of Best Picture at the 2015 Oscar ceremony caused a huge surprise — for the winner was Spotlight, a slow newspaper procedural  which had been a poor box-office performer compared to the joint favourites, The Revenant and The Big Short.

Spotlight told the story of how the Boston Globe’s investigative reporter team  exposed how the Catholic Church in Boston had been covering up for child abusing priests for decades. The long series of articles began on January 6, 2002.  The resulting newspaper campaign was one of the biggest in American journalism in recent years, averaging out at two and a half items per day.

It was a classic newspaper exposé of corruption in high places in the manner of All The President’s Men, and it was of the type that is loved by the other media because it presents their grubby trade in the most flattering light.

Moral preening aside, for many Jewish journalists especially, the story seemed to seize the imagination.  The Boston Globe’s editor Martin Baron, commissioned the investigation in his very first day in the editor’s chair and was to be depicted in the film as a dogged and tenacious crusader battling public indifference and official obstruction. His role as the first Jewish editor among an overwhelmingly Catholic raised staff, and the slights he received,  was harped on again and again.

It was Baron, together with new publisher Richard Gilman, who took the fateful decision to spend well over a million dollars of the paper’s editorial budget in a court case to force the Archdiocese to open its files going back decades. In April 2003, a year after the Boston Globe began its investigation, it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. A national profile followed, as did interest from film production companies.

From its very inception Spotlight, the movie, was an overwhelmingly Jewish project and a joint production between companies run by executives with pronounced liberal sympathies. Tom Ortenberg, the CEO of Open Road, had previously helped make another exposé of child abuse in the Catholic church. Amy Berg’s Oscar-nominated Deliver us from Evil, on a child-molesting priest, was also given much laudatory coverage by Jewish journalists.

For Ortenberg, the first Spotlight script draft was almost personal:  “I can recall reading it for the first time, sitting in a chair in my family room at home, and when I finished the script and put it down, I was kind of shaking emotionally. I remember thinking, ‘This script is why we are all in this business.’ We at Open Road have to be involved in this movie.” After receiving the Academy Award he dedicated it to sexual abuse victims.

The other executive is Jeffrey Skoll of Participant Media who made his fortune after writing the business plan for the coder who invented Ebay. His former productions also feature progressive themes close to Jewish hearts. They include the Al Gore climate change scarefest An Inconvenient Truth and an anti-gun film called American Gun. (He is currently re-making Gandhi with Palestinian actors to promote peaceful conflict resolution.)

Spotlight’s Oscar wins came as a surprise not least because it performed poorly at the box office. Perhaps the Academy’s extremely large Jewish voting bloc found the idea of Catholic priest abuse more comfortable than the ethnic implications of The Big Short.

The unsung hero of Spotlight’s Oscar wins seems to be a well-connected Beverley Hills PR man called Edward Lozzi. After the Oscar triumph, Lozzi, who also represents the Jewish Film Festival, revealed that not only had he spent six months lobbying Academy members to vote for Spotlight, but that he also represented one of the most controversial “priest abuse” survivor networks, SNAP (Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests).

The money-spinning SNAP survivor network has done well out of the priest abuse crisis and seems to be mainly funded by litigation lawyers such as Jeffrey Herman who has been described as the country’s leading child abuse lawyer and who won the largest ever payout to victims of Catholic priest abuse with a $100 million settlement in Philadelphia. (Herman slipped SNAP a cheque for $10,000 at their conference.)

So the question arises, was the Jewish enthusiasm for highlighting child abuse in the Catholic Church motivated by ethnic hostility rather than child protection? And was it anti-Catholicism that was the real motive behind the Oscars won by Spotlight?.

There is a curious thing. No matter where you turn, you find intense Jewish awareness coupled with the firm insistence that enthusiasm for the story has nothing to do with being Jewish or anti-Catholic.

At first, Martin Baron, a former editor of the Miami Herald,  insisted it was all about the story but in the Jewish Chronicle. he admitted that in Boston he was made “to feel like an outsider.”

At school, he was aware of “people of a certain status in life who felt that they were entitled and privileged,” and says, “I think I’ve always been conscious of elites in society, and very leery of elites, frankly.”

As a result of the movie, people have asked him why he went after the Catholic Church. The question irritates him. “I didn’t decide to take on the Catholic Church,” he says firmly. “I decided to pursue a story that was in front of us. It was a journalistic impulse. . . . It became apparent to me, fairly quickly, that we had not pursued every possible channel for getting at the truth. And that’s my job.”

In the rest of the Jewish press however, the anti-Catholic hostility was not so thinly veiled.

The Jewish Journal wrote:

The Globe’s Catholic reporters must face the fact that, because of their own Boston Catholic backgrounds, they ignored just how deep and widespread the abuse was. Their editor, Marty Baron, must deal with the antagonism of those who see him as a Jewish interloper on an anti-Church crusade.

Meanwhile, in Tablet, Judith Miller (the neocon whose fraudulent reporting in the New York Times had a role in promoting the Iraq war) wrote that the film showed “A community at its worst and journalism at its best.” She added:

The film also lays bare the Catholic Church’s hold on Boston politics and the city’s deeply ingrained anti-Semitism and its xenophobic disdain for “outsiders.” It reveals the political and financial pressures imposed on the Globe and its investigative team by the Church and its powerful friends in a heavily Catholic city as the Globe’s Spotlight team starts to uncover the truth about decades of horrifying abuse, and the inadequacy of their own beliefs and assumptions.

Spotlight co-scriptwriter Josh Singer provided a fine example of that most impressive phenomenon: the Jewish self-flattery machine. He said  “Marty belongs in the pantheon of great Jewish heroes,” Singer himself grew up in a comfortable, conservative Jewish home near Philadelphia. He said he was drawn to the project, in part, because:

when you’re raised Jewish, there’s something in our Bible stories that’s all about raising one’s hand up against the status quo.  It’s Abraham having the temerity to break all of those idols in a land where everyone is worshipping them. Or David, a guy with a slingshot, standing up to a giant and knocking him down.

A driving Jewish identity informs Singer’s work as well. His first spec script was about the Palestinian conflict. His next one after Spotlight was a tear-stained tale about an impoverished Jewish cobbler featuring Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler.

So the film itself was the product of a deeply felt Jewish vision. But to understand the background to the story we have to go back to January 6, 2002 when the paper splashed its first big investigative article on the story. This told of how priest John Geoghan was alleged have abused more than a hundred boys over three decades while being shuffled from parish to parish.

But what readers did not know was that the Globe’s coverage was tainted by a breathtaking level of  hypocrisy. For the paper itself had a shameful history of downplaying and covering up sexual abuse and had even promoted the careers of known paedophiles as homosexual rights activists.

This missing background has been expertly dissected in a blistering critique of the Globe’s campaign by writer David Pierre. His self-published book Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of the Boston Globe’s reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church, provides page after page of examples of distortions, omissions and inaccuracies in the Globe’s reporting.  It is a searing indictment.

The implications go far beyond the suggestion that the Globe has been taking liberties with the truth. Taken together, it raises that question as to whether anti-Catholicism, rather than child protection, was the main factor behind the Boston Globe’s campaign.

For the Boston Globe has shown a reluctance to carry out similar in-depth investigations on their own doorstep — especially if it does not fit a left-wing narrative. A case in point involves sexual scandals by teachers taking advantage of pupils, as happened in 2011. Boston Public Schools were discovered not only to have been moving around teachers caught having sex with pupils with special needs, but they refused to reveal the names of the guilty teachers or the bureaucrats behind the decision.

Here was a scandal of child sex abuse and institutional cover-up analogous to that involving the Catholic church decades earlier which drove the Globe apoplectic. And it was only given the most superficial news coverage.

The Globe could hardly plead ignorance to growing evidence that child sex abuse cover-ups in public schools were a national phenomenon that far exceeded abuse by Catholic priests. It had been cited in reports in both the education trade press and national media. Yet while there was no shortage of a crusading enthusiasm for outing Catholic priests, a blind eye was turned to the same thing in public schools despite evidence that abuse by a teacher was 100 times more likely than that of a priest.

The Boston Globe has a long history of taking a relaxed attitude to child sex molestation by favoured groups and minorities. Back in the seventies, in the Boston Revere district, two dozen men were sentenced to probation after being convicted of molesting 63 boys. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Butters said their crimes were analogous to female prostitution as there was no evidence of coercion. One of the convicted men was Donald M Allen, a prominent psychiatrist and pediatrician as well as an instructor at Harvard Law School.

This was happening at the same time as the priest abuse that the Globe so assiduously resurrected decades later.  Yet there was no call to reopen this case, no outcry from the Globe at why these men did not have to spend even a day behind bars for child rape. At the time the paper’s attitude was quite the opposite. The Globe published an article from a prominent Methodist minister and social sciences professor Thomas Reeves in which he called the Revere convictions a “witch hunt” against gays.

Reeves went on to found the notorious North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) which campaigned for the abolition of age of consent laws and celebrated gay sex between men and boys. In effect, the Globe had enabled Reeves to re-package the Revere child sex rings as a homosexual civil rights issue.

In 1983 the people of Massachusetts’ 12th Congressional District elected Gerry  Studds.  He celebrated his win by having sex with a school-age male page after plying him with alcohol. It was a straightforward abuse of power but, helped by the Globe, Studds managed to make the issue not about sexual abuse but about the challenges that an openly gay Congressman had to face. Again it was reframed as a homosexual rights issue.  What did the Globe do?  It endorsed him for re-election in 1984.

There is no doubt that the Globe helped to uncover a huge scandal in the moving around of known sex predators.  A key part of the newspaper’s campaign was that these predators went on to commit more crimes after receiving ineffective psychological treatment “cures.”

It is true that in the sexually freewheeling seventies and eighties there was  too much complacency about the dangers of child abuse. It is also true that, much like the rest of society, the Archdiocese of Boston placed  too much faith in the curative powers of psychological treatment for child molesters. What the Boston Globe  did not reveal was that it too had heavily supported such treatments — and lobbied for their funding.

A good example of this is a front-page article on June 18, 1992 which ran: “A new generation of treatment programs for sex offenders is proving highly effective, dramatically reducing the percentage of cases in which offenders repeat sex crimes, research shows.” The laudatory article that followed claimed sharp declines in recidivism rates. It continued: “While there is no complete ‘cure’ for sex offenders the new findings indicate that many of them can learn to manage their aberrant sexual impulses without committing new crimes.”

Again the Boston Globe’s hypocrisy here is striking. For a decade after first promoting psychological treatment for offenders, the Globe was excoriating the Church for doing what the paper had been advocating itself at the time.

The tenacious and indefatigable David Pierre’s eagle eye has picked up other interesting patterns in the media coverage. He surveyed every article that New York Times national religion correspondent Laurie Goodstein has written or co-written this decade and has found that while Goodstein has composed dozens of articles about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, she has authored exactly zero articles on abuse elsewhere — including the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn noted above.

TheMediaReport.com has identified 354 articles written or co-written by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times between January 1, 2010, and May 24, 2016. 99 of those articles have specifically trumpeted the issue of sex abuse in the Catholic Church; none have addressed sex abuse in any other religious institution.

This also means nearly thirty percent of all articles written by Goodstein this decade have been solely about sex abuse in the Catholic Church!

In other words, being the “National Religion Correspondent” for the New York Times is really code for being the Times‘ principle obsessor — among the many there who obsess — about old cases of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

David Pierre is not the only one who has noticed the Times lack of interest in sex abuse stories unrelated to the Catholic Church (the Times owned the Boston Globe until 2o13). As Taki noted:

leave it to The New York Times to find a front-page story unfit to print because it wasn’t anti-Catholic: The Brooklyn DA recently arrested an astounding 85 Jewish Orthodox men on charges of child sex abuse. Back in 1985 a Hasidic “therapist” was indicted for abusing five boys, but police suspected he abused more than a hundred. Avrohom Mondrowitz fled to Israel, where he remains to this day a free man. Those nice guys who shoot rock-throwing Palestinian children refuse to extradite him. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes now has to tread carefully. Fifty rabbis have signed a public announcement in Yiddish denouncing the Hasidic family who went to the cops. They asked—now get this—for any believer to kill the family that informed “on fellow Jews.” So what will happen to the 85 perverts? All I know is the Times has not published a word, whereas when the Catholic Church sex scandal broke, it led the news in the front page for months. There is something very evil when rabbis who hate the non-Jewish world can dictate to an abused child’s parents whether or not to talk to the mostly non-Jewish fuzz. If some parent were to go and firebomb the Times, we might see it appear on the back pages.

Indeed, there has been no shortage of child sexual abuse scandals in the Jewish community to report on. For instance, as noted in Taki’s comment, there is the world-wide phenomenon of Jewish communities protecting prominent child molesters in their midst and helping them escape justice. This happened in the case of notorious abuser Nachman Stal who was jailed for 13 years after being sent back to Israel from Britain (while Israel has not seen fit to extradite Avrohom Mondowitz). At his trial the judges severely criticised the London rabbis who aided him.

In Australia police said they will not be investigating those Haredim who helped Malka Leifter flee to Israel. She is accused of molesting 74 children and is still successfully fighting extradition from Tel Aviv.

And was there communal protection for prominent New York  activist — and child pornographer — Roy Naim? Forward named him the “Jewish face of immigration reform,” but he has just been sentenced to 15 years for running one of the biggest child porn rings in history.

Strangely, there seems to be no enthusiasm at the Globe or anywhere else for asking detailed questions on this subject, never mind make a feature film about it.

The Boston Globe has not fared well financially in recent years. With advertising revenue diving off a cliff,  it will take more than a prayer to keep the print edition of the Globe from surviving much longer. Maybe its readers got tired of reading articles driven by anti-Catholic animus.


David Pierre, Sins of the Press: The Untold Story of The Boston Globe’s Reporting on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church. Available on Amazon via CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Comments are closed.