On Monday the Washington Examiner, the conservative daily newspaper owned by Staples Center magnate Phil Anschutz, called out the Los Angeles Times for its coverage of events surrounding the same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco.
As the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked streaming video of the district court challenge to California's gay marriage ban (Prop. 8) from appearing on YouTube, the Times' respected Supreme Court reporter David Savage put the term "traditional marriage" in quotes in his coverage. "Um, 'traditional marriage?'" writes Mark Hemingway at the Examiner. "That descriptor is wholly accurate and I don't know what merits the scare quotes."
Hemingway also criticizes Savage's description of Prop. 8's anti-same-sex-marriage backers and supporters as "conservative," stating that "these defenders are supporting a position that that a majority of voters in California support -- hardly a conservative state -- and a position that the Democratic President of the United States also supports. It doesn't necessarily make them conservatives."
(If people who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds -- and this describes the core of Prop. 8's organizers -- aren't conservative, then we need a new political GPS system).
We're going to assume here that Anschutz, while clearly conservative in his actions (he's been a campaign contributor to George W. Bush and anti-illegal-immigrant politician Tom Tancredo), didn't have a thing to do with this Times-bashing. After all the paper's been fairly easy on his businesses in L.A.
For example when, late in the game, his Anschutz Entertainment Group, parent of Staples Center, stated that the company had been collecting and preparing "donations" to help the city defray its cost for policing AEG's Michael Jackson memorial show, the Times did little to question the claims that the company actually collected cash from third parties. Neither has it poked any holes in the notion that, if AEG actually gave the $3.2 million to the city to cover its costs for the memorial, it would be, in the company's parlance, a "donation." (Gee, thanks for covering the costs of your own show, billionaire-controlled corporation. You're so kind).
(There's evidence to suggest that AEG would gain by marketing Michael Jackson after his death -- including a share of profits in the Sony film This Is It; the 90-minute, worldwide broadcast of its memorial show could have doubled as a marketing vehicle for the blockbuster film).
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The Times did not much question the city's claim that the memorial brought in $4 million in business to Los Angeles (a claim we largely debunked), either. On the other hand, the paper did point out that AEG's apparent supporters on the City Council, Jan Perry and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for example, have benefited from AEG's political expenditures.
So who knows?
We do know this: It's hard to reconcile Anschutz's conservative voice in D.C. with his support of a quite-liberal City Council in Los Angeles. It's a council that helped the billionaire's company obtain a $70 million, 25-year loan to develop Staples Center and adjacent properties, gave him $50 million in Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund subsidies to bolster the area around Staples, tore down a small barrio to make way for Staples, and provided AEG with millions in tax breaks for Staples and L.A. Live.
With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and most of the City Council opposing Prop. 8, the stance of Anschutz's paper makes for strange bedfellows indeed. In this light, same-sex marriage seems almost, gasp, "traditional."