I wasn’t planning on writing about Alabama Supreme Court’s chief justice so soon after my Jan. 7 post, but the Los Angeles Times posted a news piece that was so awful, it deserves an Oscar nomination for "Most Biased Piece of U.S. Journalism in 2016 Thus Far." I am referring to Thursday’s article that came with the headline: “Gay marriage order puts spotlight again on the ‘Ayatollah of Alabama.' ” And yes, the article that followed was as bad as the headline.
Please keep in mind as you read this that Get Religion has a name -- “Kellerism” -- for this type of piece. That’s the practice, described here by tmatt and pioneered by the New York Times, of assuming that one side of the debate is dead wrong and, thus, doesn’t deserve fair representation.
Here we go:
When Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his latest controversial order on gay marriage, urging probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many considered it a brazen, last-ditch act of defiance against the U.S. Supreme Court.
The long-contentious chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court didn’t see it that way at all. Merely a humdrum matter of procedure, he explained. “At this point, I am not defying the United States Supreme Court,” the staunch 68-year-old Baptist and Republican said.
When it comes to Moore -- dubbed the “Ayatollah of Alabama” by a civil rights group and chided by the daughter of the late George Wallace as being more dangerous than the combative former governor -- little is ever just humdrum procedure.
An anonymous “ayatollah” label, huh? As for which civil rights group called the justice that sobriquet, we’re never told. As the article continues, the Times does its best to illustrate the “many” who think Moore is “brazen” for defying the U.S. Supreme Court.
First, the late Gov. George Wallace’s daughter is quoted. Then the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is always trotted out by journalists to complain against conservatives, is cited. As for the “many” legal analysts who the Times says are dismissive of Moore, the newspaper only then quotes one. Further down in the piece, two U.S. attorneys are quoted, but three people do not constitute "many" in my mind.
Further down, we’re told that “some” political observers think Moore is using the controversy to position himself to run for Alabama governor, but the person quoted says that’s unlikely as Moore would never win. So, who are the “some” referred to here? Moore is allowed some quotes in his defense but -- here is the key again, in terms of journalism -- no one else is quoted as supporting him even though there are people out there who do.
Couldn’t the reporter find anyone? It took me five seconds on Google to find this quote in Moore’s defense by Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel. Folks at the Times: You can try harder.
What this writer does is come up with a conclusion (that Justice Moore is trying to establish a theocracy because that’s what ayatollahs do, right?), insert the word "many" around in terms of people who think the guy is crazy and then string together quotes that support it all. Throw in an interview with the justice himself, add a black-and-white 1963 photo of Gov. George Wallace blocking black students from entering the University of Alabama and voilà, we’ve got a crafty duo. Moore, Wallace, they’re both from Alabama, so they’re both Southern bigots, right? Racial discrimination, homosexual discrimination, it’s all the same thing, n’est-ce pas?
I also take issue with a caption showing the much-maligned 10 Commandments monument the justice had installed in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. The caption said it was there for “years." Actually, Moore had it installed on July 31, 2001. It was removed from public view in the rotunda just over two years later on Aug. 27, 2003, then taken out of the building entirely on July 9, 2004. That’s less than three years. Thanks to search engines, I found that out in less than 30 seconds.
Even after Moore was tossed out of office for sneaking in that monument, he was reelected a second time in 2012. Can this man really be the George Wallace of the 21st century? Are Alabama voters that clueless?
I understand that some publications are headed by people who believe that Justice Moore is such a throwback to the Dark Ages that he doesn’t deserve a fair article. Since that seems to be the policy that the Times now operates under, Los Angeles' largest newspaper should have the integrity to relegate all future coverage of Moore to the editorial page.
Ayatollah image created in Photoshop with contributions from Shutterstock and the Alabama Supreme Court home page.