Conservatives accuse a New York Times reporter of employing "a journalistic sleight-of-hand" when it came to including a dead Catholic Navy hero who grew up in Garden Grove in a piece about complications facing Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces in light of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan's alleged shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, last week.
Here's the nut graf of Andrea Elliott's article posted Sunday on nytimes.com and printed Monday on the front page:
Thousands of Muslims have served in the United States military--a legacy that some trace to the First World War. But in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, as the United States has become mired in two wars on Muslim lands, the service of Muslim-Americans is more necessary and more complicated than ever before.
The end of the piece mentions the late Navy SEAL Michael Mansoor, who was awarded the Silver Star for saving a comrade, despite being shot in the leg, during a May 2006 firefight in Ramadi, Iraq, and the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for smothering a grenade there four months later, which ended his life but saved those of three others.
Mansoor's official Navy biography states he was born in Long Beach, played tight end for Garden Grove High School's Argonaut football team before his 1999 graduation and "attended Catholic Mass devotionally before operations."
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Elliott's story does identify Mansoor as "a practicing Christian of Lebanese and Irish descent." But it is there that Times Watch, a New York Times watchdog project of the Media Research Center founded in 1987 by late conservative activist and Catholic writer L. Brent Bozell III, accuses the reporter of pulling a fast one. The preceding headline, introductory anecdote and nut graf of Elliott's article were not about Muslims who serve in the U.S. military and, as she would clearly go on to report, Mansoor was not Muslim.
"By covertly changing the subject to 'Arab Americans' in her original piece," Elliott "committed a journalistic sleight-of-hand, and implied that it was somehow equivalent to 'Muslim,'" writes Times Watcher Matthew Balan. "If a conservative had made such an assumption, it might have been attributed to backwards stereotyping."
To be fair, Mansoor is actually introduced in the Times piece by Army Reserve Capt. Eric Rahman, who maintains that too many Americans overlook the heroic efforts of Arab-Americans in uniform and then cites Mansoor who "will never be remembered like Major Hasan." The story then races to its new conclusion lumping together the difficulties of Muslims and Arab-Americans who serve.
Arab, Muslim, Irish, Catholic, Mansoor does share something with those of all faiths and nationalities who have died for their countries: loved ones left behind. In our local hero's case, that would be his mother Sally, father George, sister Sara and brothers James and Joseph.