A Message from Jason DeParle, and a Response

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on April 25, 2011

In Friday's blog post, which responded critically to the previous Sunday's lengthy New York Times article about John Tanton, I noted that on April 17, DeParle had responded to an email from me in which I had questioned the story. As I noted in the blog, while DeParle's email said he would send me a note the next day, I had not heard from him.

About six hours after I submitted that blog, I received an email from DeParle. It was a thoughtful response that I want to acknowledge here. But since I had pledged to embargo his comments for one year if he preferred, I will not quote from it here. If I write an analysis of immigration journalism, as I hope eventually to do, I expect I will quote him there at some length. That will not happen for at least a year.

Today I want to note part of the response I sent DeParle yesterday. It drew particular attention to this paragraph that refers to the smear campaign that advocates of illegal immigrants launched after the June 2007 failure of "comprehensive immigration reform."

Reeling from their recent defeats, supporters of immigrant rights are mining those files as part of a fierce – critics say unfair – campaign to label him a racist and discredit his broader cause. Some have gone as far as calling FAIR a 'hate group.'

My response took note of the considerable time he had spent reporting the story, including time to review and talk about last year's lengthy CIS expose of the Southern Poverty Law Center's designation of FAIR as a "hate group".

The introduction to that report states this:

The evidence presented here demonstrates that the SPLC became a propaganda arm of the NCLR. The SPLC's decision to smear FAIR was the work of a kangaroo court, one convened to reach a pre-determined verdict by inventing or distorting evidence. The "Stop the Hate" campaign would more accurately be labeled as a campaign to "Stop the Debate."

My email to DeParle yesterday made this point:

The fact that you would take the time to learn about this and then say, with parenthetical brevity, that critics call it "unfair" is remarkable. Frankly, I find it inexcusable that you did not note the substance of what the critics say about this campaign.

I believe that point is is central to evaluation of an article of 2,900 words that was at least three months in the making. I believe that article made poor use not only of DeParle's considerable talents as a reporter but also of the resources of the New York Times, one of the very few news organizations that has the resources necessary to understand complex stories.