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King-Sized Mistake

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 9, 2006; 11:09 AM

Much of the MSM missed the boat.

Too many wrote predictable leads about the Coretta Scott King funeral, all but ignoring, or at least burying, the Bush-bashing that was going on.

Whether you think it was appropriate or galling for Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery to use a funeral to take partisan shots at a president who was sitting behind them, this was news.

Sometimes I think reporters come to a set-piece event like this with the lead in their heads and even if the place is set on fire, they don't deviate from their path.

Conservative bloggers and cable talkers are furious about what went down at the funeral, as I mentioned yesterday.

Here are a few of the print leads, starting with the AP :

"When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson did not attend his funeral, choosing instead to meet with his cabinet about the Vietnam War. But at services yesterday for Coretta Scott King, four U.S. presidents took turns saluting "the first lady of the civil rights movement" for her efforts over 40 years to realize her husband's dream of racial equality."

The Washington Post

"Coretta Scott King was bid a final farewell Tuesday in a stirring church service that was equal parts funeral, family reunion, and national commemoration of the woman who embodied the soul and ideals of the modern civil rights movement."

The New York Times did mention in its second graf "some overt political gibes about the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina."

The Chicago Tribune had a good third graf on the Bush criticism after this lead: "Coretta Scott King, who earned the title 'first lady of the civil rights movement' for her tireless efforts to carry on the work of her slain husband, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was given her final honor Tuesday with a funeral that was as much about politics as tributes."

But the Los Angeles Times really nailed it: "A day of eulogizing Coretta Scott King turned into a rare, in-person rebuke of President Bush, with a succession of civil rights and political leaders assailing White House policies as evidence that the dream of social and racial equality pursued by King and her slain husband was far from reality."


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