In this week’s New in Review section, Thomas Friedman takes up the question of Octavia Nasr’s firing for expressing condolences over (I’m quoting him now:) Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of the most prominent Lebanese Shiite spiritual leaders who was involved in the founding of the Hezbollah militia.
Friedman is largely on Nasr’s side, for reasons that, as you can guess, resonate with me. The column is called Can We Talk? He raises freedom-of-speech issues for reporters. He argues in favor of getting news from people with first-hand contextual knowledge. He sounds quite thoughtful. Nonetheless, he feels that Nasr should have been suspended for a month, and one basis for his reasoning appears near the beginning of his column:
Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility.
My mouth gaped so wide that my lower jaw banged my breakfast plate when I read that line. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Well, how many reporters does the New York Times need to fire - or suspend - for expressing their condolences for George Steinbrenner, all this week, and even in the same section with Friedman's column?
I'm not taking a position on Octavia Nasr. But as for Friedman: What an idiotic, vapid idea.