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NY Times Uses Quote but not Name of National Polygamy Rights Leader

Date: Sep 04, 2007
Word Count: 750 words
Cross-Reference: New York Times, Elizabeth Marquardt, Newsweek, Mark Henkel, "two mommies and a daddy"

Consistent with the newspaper’s pattern of never reporting on the national polygamy rights movement, a New York Times piece re-quoted a famous sound-bite from the National Polygamy Advocate – unethically citing another magazine who had first quoted him, instead of citing Henkel's actual name.

On March 20, 2006, Newsweek reported, "'Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle,' says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy." 
On July 16, 2007, a New York Times article re-quoted that concluding argument. However, instead of ethically citing that established national polygamy rights leader by name, it minimally identified him only as "one advocate of polygamy." 
The piece at issue was written by Elizabeth Marquardt. Titled, "When 3 Really Is a Crowd," the article was responding to an April 30, 2007, Pennsylvania Superior Court decision. The Court had determined that "three parents" all had legal status, duties, and rights to the same child. The case itself, Jacob v. Shultz-Jacob, involved two lesbians and a male sperm donor. Against his will, the man was made responsible for child support payments. 
Although the adults in the case all lived separately, the piece equally noted that in other hypothetical cases, “sometimes the three adults might want to live together, which leads to a different set of concerns. As one advocate of polygamy argued in Newsweek, ‘If Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.’ If more children are granted three legal parents, what is our rationale for denying these families the rights and protections of marriage? America, get ready...” 
The article gleefully exploited the famous sound-bite of the National Polygamy Advocate, Mark Henkel – while simultaneously attempting to exclude him from the subsequent debate. 
Although Elizabeth Marquardt has been identified as a “family scholar,” the supposed “scholasticism” of that incomplete source-citation diminishes her credibility. After all, few legitimate professors or scholars would ever view such an indirect “citation” (of such an important quote) as “scholarly” – as many frustrated research-writing college students would quickly affirm. 
Even so, editors at the New York Times should have required Marquardt to cite the actual source. Thereby, the editors bear the final blame. 
Even if Marquardt had originally written the piece with correctly citing Henkel directly, then the blame of unethical "journalism" - for the name being edited out - is placed even that much more on the editors at the New York Times. 
Either way, the New York Times bears the final responsibility of such unethical "journalism." 
Other subsequently-misinformed pundits duplicated the betrayal of journalistic integrity. From Fundamentalist Mormonism to supposedly using the same arguments as homosexuals, false associations to Henkel’s sound-bite were assumed. Yet, if Henkel’s name and organization had been correctly identified in the first place, both readers and pundits could have found that the context of his sensible sound-bite did not conform to such erroneous assumptions. 
Indeed, Henkel, as founder of the organization, had become the National Polygamy Advocate precisely due to two sensible reasons. Being an evangelical Christian, he cannot be dismissed as Mormon, Muslim, lustful, liberal, or anti-woman. And his pro-woman, pro-family, and even Biblical arguments make sense to most respective constituencies. Hence, anti-polygamists want Mark Henkel excluded from any marriage debate. 
However, others also commented – and they did so with journalistic integrity. For example, the Family Research Council (FRC) accurately cited Henkel’s name when referring to the pro-family sound-bite. 
In a July 26, 2007, radio commentary, FRC’s president, Tony Perkins, stated, "In a Newsweek article… polygamist Mark Henkel explained the basis of his argument for 'polygamist rights:' If Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy. A family scholar Elizabeth Marquardt explains in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, the courts are redefining parenthood in a way that makes the legal acceptance of Henkel's argument all but inevitable." 
The FRC's journalistic integrity in this case was among the minority. Indeed, a majority inhibiting Henkel's inclusion could likely have been the New York Times’ intent. 
After all, the New York Times has never once reported on the actual national polygamy rights movement. Anecdotal samples of Mormon polygamy, Muslim polygamy, or African cultural polygamy have never represented the larger overall activist movement nationwide. While numerous media have realized that fact and reported about the national polygamy rights movement, the New York Times, however, consistently appears afraid, unwilling, or both. 
And as the July 16, 2007, piece further proved, even the name of the National Polygamy Advocate, Mark Henkel, appears to be too politically powerful for the New York Times' ink. 


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[Reviewed for publication - Review Board.]

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