In the face of mounting protests against an oppressive Iran, The New York Times has offered more sympathy to the authoritarian regime in its coverage than the Iranians crying for freedom under threat of physical harm. That could be because the Gray Lady is in the pockets of the Muslim leaders thanks to lucrative tours it hosts in the area.
One headline over the New Year’s weekend read: “Iranian authorities have clamped down on Tehran after demonstrators across the country ignored calls for calm.”
That brought much ire on Twitter, with someone responding, “‘Clamped down’ is a weird way to say opened fire.”
Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul “rewrote” the headline for the NYT:
“Iran's brutal dictatorship yet again killed & arrested brave Iranian citizens demanding greater freedoms."
In The Washington Times, writer Larry O’Connor added his two cents:
If [the NYT lede] reads to you like a condemnation of protesters for defiantly demonstrating for basic rights and a defense of the reasonable, benevolent Iranian government you’re not alone. It’s almost as though Erdbrink is blaming the dead protesters for running in front of the peaceful warning shots fired from government troops.
In a follow-up piece, O’Connor exposed the very inconvenient fact that The Times may be soft on Iran not simply because it’s soft on facts, but also because it makes so much money hosting private tours to the country:
Over the weekend, the New York Times took some heat for seeming to defend the authoritarian regime in Iran while it gunned down protesters in the streets of Tehran.
More disturbing than the Times toeing the line for an authoritarian theocracy is the fact that the venerable paper of record is making bucket-loads of cash selling exclusive, high-end tours to Iran through their “Journeys” program. The Times promotes these things like they’re selling cabins on a luxury sea cruise:
"Persia. Iran. For 2,500 years, this powerful country has entranced, mystified and beguiled the world. Discover the ancient secrets and modern complexities of this influential land on a 13-day itinerary, visiting some of the world’s oldest archaeological sites and the family home of the religious leader who engineered Iran’s transition to an Islamic republic. Welcome to the once-forbidden land of Iran."
The basic package of the tour costs $8,000 and reportedly brings the NYT at least $1.5 million each year.
“In a closed society like Iran, one has to assume that the extensive tours conducted by the Times is made possible only through the benevolence of the regime in Tehran,” O’Connor writes. “If it’s true that the Times makes over a million dollars a year on their Persia trips (the number could be much higher) it clearly behooves the paper to keep good relations with their benefactors. If the Times angers the government, say goodbye to those tours.”
The connection is nothing new and has been reported on in the past, but with the latest uprisings in the country and the corresponding coverage by The Times, it sheds an even brighter light on media malpractice. As O’Connor states, this relationship “effectively turn[s] over the editorial page to a string of apologists for the Tehran regime.”
O’Connor reported that lectures are conducted on these tours of Iran. He found one that will blow your mind even more: “Muddled Media: Why does the press so often miss stories and developments that it should have seen coming?”
That isn’t made up; it’s directly from the tour website. The tone-deaf Times should look in a mirror sometime. It ain’t pretty.