Opinion

Bigotry of Charles Blow and the New York Times

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Has the New York Times created a hostile work environment toward Mormons and perhaps members of other religious faiths such that they could sue the newspaper to stop its encouragement of or at least indifference to the bigotry of its employees and perhaps management?

The facts are simple. Times columnist Charles Blow is not very well known and far from influential, but he does have a column and is esteemed enough by the paper’s management to be given frequent and prominent placement within the paper’s website.

During last week’s GOP debate, 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.”

National Review’s Jim Geraghty was the first conservative to notice Blow’s casual disparagement of Latter-day Saints’ religious practice. “Would the New York Times find it acceptable if one of their columnists chose to mock Muslim religious practices?” Geraghty asked. “Jewish faith practices?” 



Had a National Review columnist written during the 2000 debates about Joe Lieberman that the Connecticut senator and Democratic nominee for vice president “stick that under his yamulke,” would it have gone unremarked upon by the Manhattan-Beltway media elite?

Blow’s burst of bigotry came within days of an ESPN headline writer being fired in the Jeremy Lin affair, and weeks after CNN’s Roland Martin was suspended for tweeting comments thought offensive to gays during the Super Bowl.

On Friday morning, after criticism began to mount about Blow’s bigotry, Blow tweeted “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.”

Geraghty inquired of the Times’ public editor about the standard the paper employs regarding religious bigotry of the sort casually engaged in by Blow, and got back a response that concluded that “[b]ecause 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.”

Thus, the paper’s official arbiter of such matters declared religious bigotry within the op-ed pages to be not his concern. Perhaps, however, the paper’s lawyers ought to be concerned.

Joshua Friedman, a civil rights lawyer in New York state provides a nice summary of the complexities of hostile-environment law in the city and state of New York and, of course, at the federal level as well.

It is easy to read and perhaps the New York Times’ management might want to, at www.joshuafreidmanesq.com. 

Among the many interesting assertions about New York law made by Friedman is this one:

“An employer is liable for the conduct of co-workers, supervisors and low level managers which create a hostile work environment if the employer acquiesced in the harassment, or condoned the harassment after the fact.”

The emphasis is Friedman’s, not mine.

The anti-Mormon parade is just getting organized it seems. Stephen Colbert had a bit the other night, one in which Colbert converted “all dead ‘Mormons to Judaism’ using a hot dog sausage and a cigar cutter.’”

This of course follows the great success on Broadway of “The Book of Mormon.”  All this satire of one group will inevitably lead to less satirical, much more explicitly bigoted statements like Blow’s.

That’s just the order of such things: Mockery in the name of good fun or even a political point, then disparagement and hostility, then overt discrimination.

Mormons are a very big target since they are relatively few, very distinct in their theology, and generally conservative. But of course it won’t just be, and hasn’t been, limited to Mormons.

Rick Santorum’s Catholicism has a long history as a target of bigots, and in postmodern, hypersecular America, all Christians should know that their turn in the tumbler is coming if it hasn’t already arrived.

Anti-discrimination laws of the sort that govern in New York were devised to protect minorities in the workplace, and by-and-large they do. Had Blow let fly with a comment aimed at a racial minority or directed at someone’s gender or sexual orientation, he would have drawn some sort of rebuke, and not the “acquiescence” of management.

The law doesn’t, however, carve out religious minorities so they can be attacked by no-talent know-nothings like Blow. The desire on the left to attack Romney or Santorum by way of their religious beliefs because they are a threat to President Obama’s re-election doesn’t waive the law, or more to the point, doesn’t erase the moral disgust that ought to accompany the peculiarly disfiguring hatred of bigotry.

Accomplices both active and passive share in the stain, and these days it is spreading fast.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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