New York Times Plays Race Card to Raise Circulation

11/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Trey Ellis Novelist, Screenwriter, and Associate Professor at Columbia University

The New York Times' non-story about Obama's casual relationship with Bill Ayers is their version of the odiously unfunny New Yorker cover of Obama dressed like a terrorist and Michelle Obama like a Black Panther. By screaming "Obama and '60s Bomber" on their front page they were parroting a desperate, right-wing talking point grounded in good ol'fashioned race hatred.

According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 13% of Americans still think Obama is a Muslim. How many others suspect -- purely because of the color of his skin -- that he is a one-man sleeper cell, a Black Panther in Brooks Brothers clothing.

The New York Times article and the New Yorker cartoon recklessly flirt with that meme. They irresponsibly revive the irrational suspicions trumped up by the Rev. Wright controversy (and laid to rest by Obama's soaring Philadelphia race speech).

And in the Wright controversy Obama really did have a relationship with that nutjob that he had to sever. While the Ayers connection is billed as "Rev. Wright II," the Times story itself concludes that the two are no more than passing acquaintances.

John McCain has not offered a single substantive prescription for our ailing economy or how his foreign policy would differ from the train wreck of the Bush Administration's. Instead, it seems his only hope is capitalizing on the worst in us. His "Country First" and "The American President Americans have been waiting for," slogans are offensive not just to every minority in America but to the hundreds of millions of Americans who are children of immigrants.

The question for the TImes is why this old, non-news now? Why did the Rev. Wright scandal bubble up from the pit of the right-wing echo chamber into the MSM just as Obama was breaking away from Hillary?

I think I know why. The media is selling the race for the White House like a telenovela. I don't write soap operas. I write novels and movies, but in all these forms you don't put your big, climactic scene twenty pages from the end. Hey, it's called a finale for a reason.

As Obama continues to open up his lead in every major poll, this nail-biter of an election is beginning to look like a blowout. A blowout would mean an enormous loss of revenue to the media corporations, akin to everyone knowing Michael Phelps had already won his eight golds after just the third day of NBC's broadcast.

Market forces are the only logical reason I can see why our most important news outlet would place on their front page an article linking the possible future President of the United States to a terrorist (and then concluding inside the article that the two have nothing to do with each other at all).