Weekly goes after LAT on Mahony


Jeffrey Anderson in today's LA Weekly takes on the Times' coverage of Cardinal Roger Mahony and the sex abuse story. Religion writer Larry Stammer comes in for the most criticism, but the story claims more broadly "a history of deference to the Catholic Church." The most interesting detail:

The most blatant attempt by Mahony to bully the Times came in July 2002 at the height of the national scandal. Mahony, attorney J. Michael Hennigan and PR mogul Michael Sitrick met in private with Times editors to head off an investigative effort led by reporter Glenn Bunting. They complained about what they considered negative coverage. (Egged on by the now-defunct New Times, the Times could not ignore that Mahony allowed former priest Michael Baker and numerous others to remain in ministry despite knowledge of child molestation.) The cardinal agreed to cooperate with the Times on the investigative story, providing information and sitting for interviews with Bunting and others.

Sitrick and company’s role was to turn the Times’ story around and burnish Mahony’s tainted image. According to Hennigan, Sitrick associate and former journalist Robert Emmers delivered sensitive information to Times reporters about accused priests, without waiving the legal privileges Mahony claims in criminal and civil court. The result was an August 18, 2002, report that exposed Mahony’s neglect in allowing eight pedophile priests to stay in ministry but also cast him as a reformer for spiriting away 17 others whom he failed to disclose to law enforcers. Although it is the definitive story to date, it was compromised by Sitrick’s involvement and created a misleading impression of Mahony as a reformer, deflating the rising scandal in Los Angeles. It was the last investigative effort by the Times to come anywhere near the cardinal.

Also in the Weekly: Marc Cooper and Harold Meyerson offer different takes on the Ralph Nader candidacy.

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