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Some of Thomas Friedman’s Best Friends

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2009

Thomas Friedman has a lot of friends. But does his penchant for quoting them in his column run counter to The New York Times’ anonymous sources policy? A review of Friedman’s recent columns reveals a pattern of quoting his friends and identifying them only by their nationality or race. Take, for instance, the following instances:

I ran into an Indian businessman friend last week and he said something to me that really struck a chord: “This is the first time I’ve ever visited the United States when I feel like you’re acting like an immature democracy.” (“Are We Home Alone?,” March 21)

“We’re all going to have to learn to live with a lower level of trust in our lives,” an African banker friend said to me here. But the mind recoils at that, which may explain why so many people I talked to here are hoping that President Obama will turn out to be the guy. (“Elvis Has Left the Mountain,” January 31)

So, I was speaking to an Iranian friend about what a mind-bending thing it must be for people in the Middle East to see Americans, seven years after 9/11, electing someone named Barack Hussein Obama as president. (“Show Me the Money,” November 9)

This may not seem like a big deal, but Friedman’s fellow-columnist, David Brooks, came under fire recently for skirting the paper’s anonymous sources policy. The policy states that anonymous sources should be used only as “a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way.” In his column last week, Public Editor Clark Hoyt said he understands Brooks’ argument that columnists should not be held to the same standard as reporters, but that he would have asked Brooks’ source (President Obama, in the instance in question) to go on the record regardless.

All this raises some questions: Are Thomas Freidman’s friends an exception to the policy? Is the information they provide not available in any other way? And why does he only identify the ethnicity or race of his non-white friends?


Jacob Silverman's picture
This is typical of Friedman, who claims to have friends everywhere but really only in the highest places. It’s the journalistic equivalent of someone at a cocktail party sharing an anecdote and then saying, “But *you* wouldn’t know him.” One of his other infuriating tics is to create a mind-numbingly obvious neologism and present it as groundbreaking. When I heard him on NPR last week claim that “we need a ‘Climate Bailout’ ” I thought to myself – as I quickly changed the station – “Yup, same old guy.” These tendencies, combined with his numerous other defects as a columnist, make it shocking that he’s still employed, much less held up as someone on the cutting edge of.. well, anything. Matt Taibbi’s review of “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” is my favorite takedown of the man:

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