Charles Blow apologizes for religious insult, NYT ready to ‘move on’
posted at 12:27 pm on February 25, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
A minor controversy erupted this week over an insensitive Twitter comment made during Wednesday’s debate by New York Times op-ed writer Charles Blow. Reacting to an observation by Mitt Romney on the difficulties facing children raised in single-parent homes, Blow tweeted:
Let me just tell you this Mitt ‘Muddle Mouth’: I’m a single parent and my kids are amazing! Stick that in your magic underwear.
Those curious final two words were an unkind reference to a Mormon tradition of wearing a “temple garment” under clothing to symbolize one’s devotion to God (think yarmulke if you’re seeking a parallel in another religion).
Predictably conservative commentators jumped all over the tweet, liberals not so much. Among the former was James Taranto, who pointed out that the comment “was not only bigoted but completely gratuitous. [Blow] was apparently set off by Romney’s debate comments … which had nothing to do with the candidate’s religion.”
Taranto also noted that Blow apologized on Friday, tweeting:
Btw, the comment I made about Mormonism during Wed.’s debate was inappropriate, and I regret it. I’m willing to admit that with no caveats.
One might argue that the “btw” makes it something of a half-hearted apology, or one issued as an afterthought, but an apology is an apology, right? Er, that depends on the apologizer and the apoplogizee. In another recent dustup over an “insensitive” remark by another journalist, heads rolled. And the bigotry in that case—over the use of the word chink in a headline that also included the name of a Knicks point guard of Asian extraction—was open to interpretation. ESPN’s Anthony Federico insisted he was not trying to be “cute” in writing the headline, but he was fired all the same. In Blow’s case, there is no ambiguity. So will the Times be taking disciplinary action?
The National Review’s Jim Geraghty posed that question to the paper’s ombudsman Arthur Brisbane and received this response:
I agree this type of tweet isn’t a good idea. I have generally taken the view that ad hominem attacks are problematic journalistically (see link below to a column I write about a Joe Nocera piece). And I personally disagree with criticizing anyone based on religious belief. Because the writer in this case is an Op-Ed writer, whose opinions are his own, I do not plan to intervene to disagree with the opinion itself. But I think tweets of this kind are a mistake.
Short form: Nothing to look at here. Move along.
But at least it was comforting to learn that the Times ombudsman takes a dim view of religious bigotry. He would probably take offense at a blog post penned in April of 2009 that addressed the Vermont legislature’s passage of a same-sex marriage bill, in which the writer explained that this “victory” for gay rights was easy to predict because Vermonters are enlightened enough to eschew religion in their lives. The writer also opined parenthetically:
It’s baffling how intelligent people try to derive a well-rounded set of modern mores from books written by men who didn’t even know that the world was round. But, I digress.
The author, needless to say, is Charles Blow.
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