NYT Exposes Powder Room Plan for Israeli Women Lawmakers
In breathless prose, at the top of the international page no less, the July 12 edition of the New York Times regales readers with a whiff of scandal at Israel's Knesset -- plans for a powder room for the 27 women parliamentarians so they can freshen up for TV cameras. ("Powder Room In Parliament? Israelis Scoff" page A4)
There is nothing wrong with a newspaper occasionally finding a laughable topic, a spicy chuckle, about the high and mighty. It can make for a good read, as the saying goes in the news business. But "Salongate" at the Knesset doesn't exactly qualify. Instead, it's a silly concoction unworthy of high-school-level journalism. Given the Times' overall hypercritical coverage of Israel, one can only conclude that the paper's Jerusalem correspondents, having exhausted their regular supply of Israel-bashing topics, stretched a bit lower and came up with what is essentially a non-event.
Jodi Rudoren, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, and correspondent Irit Pazner Garshowitz -- yes, the Times needs two reporters for this non-story -- start out in serious tones that a lawmaker, Ruth Calderon of the centrist Yesh Atid party, is calling for a separate Knesset room -- a "salon" for women lawmakers.
But no sooner did Calderon float her proposal but "outrage erupted on social media," according to the Times.
The article then cites acerbic comments by several critics on Calderon's Facebook page along with a few defensive quotes by Calderon.
Finally, only when readers get to the last paragraph, do they find out that there is less -- much less -- to this controversy, however comical, than Rudoren and Garshowitz lead them to believe.
At last, Yotam Yakir, a Knesset spokesman, tells the Times that Calderon's idea was "not an official request and not a nonofficial request, but a casual suggestion made during an introductory conversation with staff members."
In other words, a puffed-up, fabricated non-story. Still, Times editors rated it as "news that's fit to print."
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers