GOP Greeted by Biased Tampa Bay Times

Friday, 24 Aug 2012 09:32 AM

By James Walsh

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Weather allowing, the 2012 Republican National Convention will open on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012, in Tampa, Fla., at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Tampa Bay Times, until Jan. 1, 2012, was known as The St. Petersburg Times (St. Pete Times or The Times for short). Known locally as the “Florida Pravda”, it has been an ultra-liberal anti-Republican paper for the past 65 years, but a good read.

The Times has long scorned Republicans as bigots, choosing to overlook that it was Republicans who ensured passage of President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 civil rights legislation, when many Senate Democrats voted against it. While The Times gave lip service to civil rights, it supported Florida’s two Democrat U.S. senators who voted against the legislation, one of them being Sen. Spessard Holland.

Conventioneers should know that Tampa, as the port city for Tampa Bay, is located on the eastern shore of the bay. The neighboring city of St. Petersburg extends from the western shore of Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. From the mid-1950s until today, St. Petersburg has voted Republican, in spite of its liberal newspaper, and Tampa has voted Democrat.

The area’s professional sports teams, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay Rays, have confused out-of-state sports reporters who wrongly think that St. Petersburg and Tampa make up a municipality called Tampa Bay.

Over the decades, the liberal bias of The St. Pete Times persisted. In 1966, for instance, an unknown lawyer named Claude Kirk ran for governor of Florida as a Republican against the Democrat powerhouse Robert King High, mayor of Miami. The Times not only endorsed High, it ridiculed Kirk and Republicans for months prior to the election. Kirk won, initiating a Republican renaissance in Florida.

In 1968, Republican Congressman Edward Gurney ran for the U.S. Senate against the liberal icon and former Florida Gov. Leroy Collins. Gurney, a wounded World War II veteran, was vilified and mocked by the Florida press corps. Led by The Times, the press proffered that Gurney was a right-wing ideologue. Gurney won.

This year, when the St. Pete Times became the Tampa Bay Times, the newspaper retained its bias against Republicans and conservatives in particular. The Sunday edition has a “Perspective” section with editorials, political commentaries, and political stories critical of all but Democrats.

For instance, the Aug. 19, 2012, edition led with a front-page, above-the-fold story entitled, “Unmasking a Candidate,” an unflattering piece on Mitt Romney. The “Perspective” section had an article entitled, “What? The stimulus really worked?” by Michael Grunwald, a Time magazine correspondent.

Grunwald opined, “It quickly became obvious that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [the stimulus bill] was also a huge deal for healthcare, transportation, scientific research, and the safety net as well as the failing economy.” Grunwald noted that the stimulus “lifted at least 7 million people out of poverty and made 32 million poor people less poor. It built power lines and sewage plants and fire stations . . . And Republicans have trashed the stimulus as a radical exercise in socialism, just as some Republicans — but not all Republicans — trashed the New Deal.”

Grunwald is at odds with reports of an estimated 46.2 million people still in poverty; of unemployment numbers exceeding 8 percent; and of public services — fire, police, and libraries — being reduced in U.S. cities and towns due to lack of funds.

Obama’s stimulus bill only worked well for “green” companies owned by Obama donors who have since declared bankruptcy, such as Solyndra, Abound Solar, ENER1, and Beacon Power.

Times columnist Bill Maxwell attacked Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for being a radical devotee of Ayn Rand, an author who saw laissez-faire capitalism as the ideal economic system.

Ryan says he respects some but not all of Rand’s positions, differing with her in part because he is a Catholic. Ryan believes education decisions are better handled at state and local levels than at the federal level. Maxwell says, “Do not believe him, especially when it comes to public education, higher education in particular.”

A “Perspective” column by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post writers group was headlined, “First a boogeyman, now Ryan for real.” Klein postures that the Obama campaign hoped for the addition of Ryan to the Romney ticket. Democrats thought to make the Ryan budget (defeated by the Democrat-controlled Senate in May 2011) the centerpiece of Obama’s re-election. Ryan has met this challenge head on, leaving Democrats to watch what they wish for.

Among The Times Editorials was one attacking attempts by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott to clean the voting rolls to assure that only qualified U.S. citizens vote. It charged that Republicans want to keep minorities and the elderly from voting.

A week before the opening gavel of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, The Times published these and other articles attacking Republicans. Not one piece could be described as fair and balanced.

Welcome, Republicans and the Republican National Committee to the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Carrying Florida in November will be the best revenge.

James H. Walsh was associate general counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1983 to 1994. Read more reports from James Walsh — Click Here Now.

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