New York, NY – In a bizarre turn of events, the head of a major Catholic organization took two major New York newspapers to task, ultimately resolving the issue with one while accusing the other of playing favorites by ignoring cases of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League criticized both the Daily News and The New York Times for failing to cover a settlement paid out by Yeshiva Torah Temimah to two former students who had been abused as six year olds by their rebbe, Rabbi Joel Kolko.
Donohue charged that both papers are quick to pounce on any stories of sexual abuse by priests and wondered why a multi-million dollar settlement in the Kolko case wasn’t considered newsworthy.
“And they expect us to believe that there is no anti-Catholic animus at the Daily News and the New York Times! They prove us right all the time,” wrote Donohue.
The Daily News responded a day later with an editorial acknowledging that not covering the Kolko settlement was a major error in judgment, but adamantly rejecting the notion of any anti-Catholic bias at the paper.
“Like any media organization, The News sometimes misses stories,” read the editorial. “This was one of them – and it was especially significant for a publication that has campaigned for reform of New York State statutes of limitation on criminal and civil cases against those who sexually abuse minors.”
Pointing to its broad coverage of child sexual abuse in all religious and demographic groups and the significant space devoted by the Daily News to Catholic causes and issues, the editorial concludes by categorizing Donohue’s claim of anti-Catholic bias as “simply false.”
While the Daily News editorial fell short of an actual apology, a second press release issued by Donohue that appeared Thursday on the Catholic League website praised the Daily News for its responsible remarks and for owing up to the mistake.
“The reasoned response by the Daily News is much appreciated,” wrote Donohue. “We will certainly let our supporters know of it.”
Donohue said that he has yet to receive any response from The New York Times to his statement.
In addition to accusing the newspaper of being prejudiced against Catholics, Donohue observed that the deliberate omission of the Kolko story was yet another example of The New York Times’ policy of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse committed by rabbis.
“Quite frankly, the Times has a history of omitting stories on rabbis who molest youngsters, something one of its previous public editors even admitted to me. Yet little has changed,” wrote Donohue.
Despite Donohue’s claims, over the years the Times has covered the Weberman trial, the Kolko case and allegations of abuse at Yeshiva University.
A lengthy 2012 article detailed the consequences Chasidic Jews can face when reporting incidents of sexual abuse while a 2013 article addressed the arrest of a rabbi who abused three of his teenaged students.
More recently, the newspaper covered the story of a Kiryas Joel rabbi who was captured on surveillance video fondling a young boy.