The New York Times admitted one of its graphics on the Iran nuclear deal was “insensitive” for singling out which Congress members were Jewish. Because of complaints pointing that out, the Times deleted the column about who was Jewish.
In a lengthy Sept. 12 editor’s note, the Times explained the Sept. 9 chart “oversimplified a complex aspect of the debate – the views of Jewish members of Congress and the divisions among American Jews over the deal.”
The print and online chart included a “separate column” for “which congressional Democrats who opposed the deal were Jewish and which were not.”
“Under Times standards, the religion or ethnicity of someone in the news can be noted if that fact is relevant and the relevance is clear to readers,” the Times explained. In this case, it was “a legitimate subject for reporting, since many Jewish Americans on both sides of the debate were particularly concerned about the deal’s impact on Israel’s security.” However, the Times chart “did not include this context, or make clear that Jewish voters and lawmakers, like other Americans, were sharply divided on the issue.”
“Its emphasis may have left the impression that their Jewish identity was a decisive factor for Democrats who opposed the deal, an assumption that was not supported by reporting.”
Before the editor’s note was posted, the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple pointed out the edits to the article, quoting Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha as saying editors “decided that that element of the graphic put too much emphasis on the question of which Democrats opposing the deal were Jewish.”
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan agreed that the “Times was right to change insensitive graphic.”
“The graphic, as almost everyone now seems to agree, was insensitive and inappropriate,” Sullivan commented. “I would add that it was regrettably tone-deaf. It shouldn’t have appeared in that form to begin with. Given that it did, Times editors took the right action in listening to the objections and changing it.”
Sullivan faulted the Times for being slow to add an editor’s note to readers explaining that it did change the graphic and why.