Washington, DC -After criticizing two nonprofit organizations in print, the Washington Times offered to sell the groups space to tell their side of the story, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), one of the groups approached by the newspaper.
Since December 17, The Washington Times has run a continuing series of articles and editorials decrying federal and state biologists accused of "planting" lynx hairs during a nationwide survey of the rare cats. In a January 18 story, the conservative paper singled out PEER and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) as the scientists' only public defenders.
Although neither group had ever been contacted by reporter from the paper, both PEER and FSEEE received phone calls in late January from a Washington Times advertising representative encouraging them to buy a full-page rebuttal ads for $9,450. When FSEEE president Andy Stahl played along, the ad representative went so far as to draft the ad text himself and sent the "mock-up" back to Stahl by E-mail.
While the Times coverage of the lynx issue has prompted calls from western Republican members of Congress to fire the scientists, several aspects of their stories have proven untrue or have been retracted, including claims that agency scientists planted "false samples" in an attempt to "defraud" the public. Now Washington Times Managing Editor Fran Coombs has admitted that the lynx issue is not as "black and white" as the newspaper originally reported.
"The Washington Times' shoddy reputation is further tarnished by this new form of checkbook journalism," stated Eric Wingerter, PEER's National Field Director. "This latest scam suggests that the Washington Times slants its coverage not to generate readership, but to squeeze out advertising revenue."