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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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