Following Media Matters for America's March 1 item exposing Boston Globe technology reporter Hiawatha Bray's use of weblogs to attack Senator John Kerry and support President Bush during the 2004 presidential campaign, the Globe issued a statement saying that Bray had been told that his postings were "inappropriate and in violation of our standards" and had been "instructed to discontinue any such postings." By contrast, other publications have fired reporters in recent years for expressing personal political opinions, and in at least two cases, columnists, for pointed criticisms of President Bush.
In numerous instances since 2001, journalists and other media figures have reportedly been fired or punished for expressing ideological or partisan views in public:
- NBC and National Geographic fired journalist Peter Arnett for giving an interview to an Iraqi television station in which he criticized America's planning for the Iraq war, stating: "Clearly, the American war plans misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces." [Associated Press, 3/31/03]
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram fired real estate columnist Steve McLinden after he sent a private e-mail response to a statewide e-mail from the Young Conservatives of Texas, which advertised a protest of an upcoming speech by former president Bill Clinton. In his e-mail, which the Young Conservatives of Texas included as part of their anti-Clinton promotions, McLinden attacked the group as "heartless, greedy, anti-intellectual little fascists." [Fort Worth Weekly, 3/27/03]
Columnists Dan Guthrie and Tom Gutting were fired by newspapers in Oregon and Texas, respectively, "after writing pointed opinion pieces critical of President Bush's handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States," Editor & Publisher reported on September 27, 2001. E&P noted: "Publishers at both dailies would not say if the columns led directly to the firings, but they appear to have played central roles."
- The Grants Pass, Oregon, Daily Courier fired columnist Dan Guthrie was fired for a September 15, 2001, column in which he criticized President Bush for "hiding in a Nebraska hole" on September 11, 2001. Guthrie also wrote of Bush: "His first time under real pressure, he bolted. Many do. Maybe he'll have a chance to redeem himself now that the holy wars have reached our land." [AP, 9/26/01]
- The Texas City Sun fired columnist and city editor Tom Gutting after a September 22, 2001, column in which he wrote that on September 11, 2001, Bush "was flying around the country like a scared child seeking refuge in his mother's bed after having a nightmare." [Editor & Publisher, 9/27/01]
These examples were compiled by someone writing under the name Jackson Thoreau in a May 24, 2003, column titled "Some Courageous mainstream journalists still stand up to censorship," featured on OpEdNews.com.
Finally, Wall Street Journal Middle East correspondent Farnaz Fassihi "would not be allowed to write about Iraq for the paper until after the [2004 presidential] election," the Los Angeles Times reported on October 2, 2004, "presumably because unauthorized publication of her private correspondence somehow called into question the fairness of her journalism." A personal e-mail, in which Fassihi wrote, "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster," had been widely distributed on the Internet. When asked if Fassihi's e-mail had been the impetus behind the reassignment, the Journal responded: "Ms. Fassihi is coming out of Iraq shortly on a long planned vacation. That vacation was planned to, and will, extend past the election." Fassihi later confirmed this.