The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was the chief Supreme Court reporter at The New York Times for 40 years has admitted to making monthly donations to Planned Parenthood while working at the newspaper of record.
In her new book, “Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between,” Linda Greenhouse says her financial support for the abortion giant had no bearing on her impartiality as a journalist.
“It was important to me to write a check every month and sign my name,” Ms. Greenhouse writes of her donations. “It was the signature of a citizen. The stories that appeared under my byline, on abortion and all other subjects, were the work of a journalist.”
Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said Ms. Greenhouse is infamous in the pro-life community for her slanted news coverage.
“There’s a clear pro-abortion bias throughout her writing,” Ms. Quigley said. “It’s difficult to be objective when you not only lean a certain direction, but when you are a contributing member to the pro-abortion movement.”
“Suffice it to say,” she continued, “I was not shocked to find this out.”
A spokesperson for The New York Times declined to comment.
According to the newspaper’s ethical guidelines, employees are prohibited from giving money to political candidates, but are permitted to make “modest” contributions to “organizations that are unlikely to generate news of interest,” such as community charities, libraries and sports leagues.
“Staff members should think carefully about their own contributions to various causes, bearing in mind the need for neutrality on divisive issues,” the guidelines read.
Ms. Greenhouse, winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, covered the high court for the Times from 1978 to 2008, during which she routinely pushed the boundaries of journalistic ethics. She attended a reproductive rights march in 1989 on the National Mall in D.C. — an event that she was not covering for the Times. When her presence at the protest became publicly known, then-Washington bureau chief Howell Raines forced her to apologize.
In her book, Ms. Greenhouse writes that she wasn’t sorry. “The person I felt sorry for was Raines, who was unable to summon the will to defend me.”
In a 2006 speech to alumna of Harvard’s Radcliffe College, Ms. Greenhouse lamented the “sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.”
It is unclear when Ms. Greenhouse began to give money to Planned Parenthood, or how much she contributed to the nation’s largest abortion provider while at the Times.
She spearheaded the newspaper’s coverage of major Supreme Court rulings on abortion, including at least one case in which Planned Parenthood was the petitioner.
In her coverage of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the landmark 1992 decision upholding a constitutional right to abortion, Ms. Greenhouse criticizes the dissenting opinions of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia as “somewhat puzzling” and “even contradictory.”
She describes the respondent in that case, then-Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-life Democrat, as “something of a pariah in his party” due to his stance on abortion.
In her coverage of Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 Supreme Court decision that upheld the federal ban on intact dilation and extraction abortions, Ms. Greenhouse describes the phrase “partial-birth abortion” as a “provocative label” invented by the pro-life movement.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reads her dissenting opinion in Carhart “at a slow pace that caused every syllable to resonate.” The justice’s powerful oration warranted a follow-up article one month later headlined, “In dissent, Ginsburg finds her voice at Supreme Court.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, meanwhile, “took pains” to square his majority opinion with the court’s precedent on abortion.
The revelation that Ms. Greenhouse gave money to Planned Parenthood may not come as a surprise to some in the legal world.
Justice Clarence Thomas once lamented the “Linda Greenhouse version” of events.
Echoing that sentiment in a 1992 speech to the Federalist Society, Appellate Judge Laurence H. Silberman said legal reporters at the Times exist to put “activist heat on recently appointed Supreme Court justices.” He called it “the Greenhouse effect.”
• Bradford Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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