This Isn't the First Time the New York Times Covered Up Black-on-Jewish Violence in Crown Heights

"I didn’t blame the “rewrite” reporter. I blamed the editors."

crown heights pogrom

The New York Times is claiming that the Knockout Game, some of whose attacks targeted Jews in Crown Heights, is a myth. That's not surprising because it's not the first time that the New York Times covered up Black-on-Jewish violence in that neighborhood.

It did so in a much bigger way during the Dinkins/Sharpton Crown Heights Pogrom.

Is that a conspiracy theory? No, it's an account from one of the more high profile figures at the New York Times. Here is Ari Goldman's account of how the New York Times tried to cover up the Anti-Semitic violence.

“Two Deaths Ignite Racial Clash in Tense Brooklyn Neighborhood,” the Times headline said. And, worse, I read an opening paragraph, what journalists call a “lead,” that was simply untrue:

“Hasidim and blacks clashed in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn through the day and into the night yesterday.”

In all my reporting during the riots I never saw — or heard of — any violence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions. To show Jewish culpability in the riots, the paper even ran a picture — laughable even at the time — of a chasidic man brandishing an open umbrella before a police officer in riot gear. The caption read: “A police officer scuffling with a Hasidic man yesterday on President Street.”

I was outraged but I held my tongue. I was a loyal Times employee and deferred to my editors. I figured that other reporters on the streets were witnessing parts of the story I was not seeing.

But then I reached my breaking point. On Aug. 21, as I stood in a group of chasidic men in front of the Lubavitch headquarters, a group of demonstrators were coming down Eastern Parkway. “Heil Hitler,” they chanted. “Death to the Jews.”

Police in riot gear stood nearby but did nothing.

Suddenly rocks and bottles started to fly toward us and a chasidic man just a few feet away from me was hit in the throat and fell to the ground. Some ran to help the injured man but most of us ran for cover. I ran for a payphone and, my hands shaking with rage, dialed my editor.

I spoke in a way that I never had before or since when talking to a boss. “You don’t know what’s happening here!” I yelled. “I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone next to me just got hit. I am writing memos and what comes out in the paper? ‘Hasidim and blacks clashed’? That’s not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You’ve got this story all wrong. All wrong.”

I didn’t blame the “rewrite” reporter. I blamed the editors. It was clear that they had settled on a “frame” for the story.

It's the frame that is always there. It was there then. It's still there now.